"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

OT83: Slippery Slopen Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Comments of the week are Douglas Knight on how “eclipse season occurs like clockwork, about every half of a solar year”, and . on how ant colonies sometimes settle wars through ritual combat.

2. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about whether I still endorse my old post “You Are Still Crying Wolf” in light of recent events. I’m not up for causing more controversy right now, so I’ll hide this here instead of writing a full post, but the short answer is: yes. If this ever changes, I’ll put it on my Mistakes page – if you don’t see it there, I still endorse it. I don’t think anything has changed significantly since I wrote it. Trump continues to condemn white nationalism; his opponents continue to condemn his condemnations as insincere or not good enough. White nationalism continues to be a tiny movement with a low-four-digit number of organized adherents, smaller than eg the Satanists; people continue to act as if it’s a gigantic and important social force. I don’t want to get drawn into another ten thousand words on this, but you can probably piece together where I’m coming from from some of the following: this estimate of about 500 people at the Charlottesville rally; this estimate of about 1100 people at a recent Satanic rally, this poll showing more blacks and Latinos agree with the white supremacist movement than whites do (probably a polling error based on random noise; my point is that the real level of support is literally unmeasurably low), the constant Obama-era claims that Obama’s half-hearted condemnations of Islamic terrorism proved he was a secret Muslim or just dog-whistled some sort of vague spirit of not really opposing terrorism (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), and this analysis of Trump’s completely unprincipled and stupid way of deciding what opinions to have on things. I continue to think crying wolf is a major danger, with the worst-case scenario being a sort of repeat of the War On Terror, where rampant fear of terrorism (even in the general absence of any real threat) transformed our society and our politics for the worse in various ways. And as always, I continue to believe that Trump is a terrible person and a terrible President, and that any attention we focus away from his gaffes should be redirected to all the terrible laws and policies he’s promoting.

3. I’m trying to stay off Twitter and seriously limit my exposure to Facebook for a while, so if you send me any messages over those platforms, I might not see them.

4. New advertisement on the sidebar for Breakdown Notes, an online tool to make notes, diagrams, or mindmaps in your browser with paid and free+ads versions.

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1,459 Responses to OT83: Slippery Slopen Thread

  1. Winter Shaker says:

    So, here is a question which I wonder if the community can help me with:
    How does one sharpen up one’s ability to continue to have a conversation with someone over a long period? (and by ‘someone’ I mean one’s romantic partner or someone you’d be interested in romantically empartnering)

    I am not great at sustaining a conversation with someone when there are no third parties around to do more than their fair share of the burden of conversation, and, while I do have a bit of Andrew Hunter’s problem from a few threads back, I am perhaps a bit more hopeful in that regard. Even when explicitly asked ‘what are your thoughts?’, quite often the answer will just be ‘no thoughts, my brain was just replaying a tune’ or something similar. People who have started from a position of being bad at this, and have improved: how did you do it?

    • Alsadius says:

      I sort of had the opposite problem as a kid – I’d go on about anything I found interesting, without any regard for what the other person thought of it. I was a horrible bore sometimes, I’m sure. What helped me was a better understanding of when they do or don’t care, and acting on it. It also helps to have other outlets – if I have a really funny D&D story, I won’t tell my wife(who’s never played), I’ll drop a Facebook message to a gamer buddy. It releases the tension of wanting to share a cool experience with someone, without boring those who aren’t interested.

      The part of this that’d apply to you, I think, is trying to really understand people as best you can(note: this is really hard). If you have a better sense of what they’ll find interesting, you can go off semi-randomly and still be entertaining. For example, there are friends where I can start talking about the tune that was in my head, what I think of the drummer on that track, and turn that into a 10-minute discussion. Often, “nothing” is code for “I think I’d be embarrassed if I said what I was thinking out loud”, so figuring out when it’ll be embarrassing and when it’ll be safe lets you turn a lot of “nothing” into conversational hooks.

    • Zubon says:

      If you want to talk but have trouble generating topics, keep a notepad of topics, assorted little things that popped into your head during the day. When you see that romantic partner and need conversational topics, check your list. The right potential romantic partner will probably find this “endearing” rather than “dealbreaker-weird.”

      You might be better served by developing listening skills. Great listeners are valued in conversation since most people seem to like to talk, and active listening is a skill that is weakly associated with men but seems highly sought in romantic partners. You do not need to generate your own topics if you are willing to encourage someone else to take the conversational lead. Asking good questions can sustain conversation.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Interesting idea; I may have to see if I have space for a notepad along all the other clutter I carry in my pockets. To be clear though, I am talking about ‘when the other person is also a quiet type’, so good-listenerdom on its own is not likely to be enough.

        (Also, I seem to have been promoted to first place in the thread. Did two people both delete their top-level comments after I posted mine?)

    • Charles F says:

      Even when explicitly asked ‘what are your thoughts?’, quite often the answer will just be ‘no thoughts, my brain was just replaying a tune’

      You need two things, a stalling tactic and a PRTG (pseudo-random thought generator). My stalling tactics are work topics or recent reading, whatever’s more incomprehensible to the person I’m talking to. My random thought generator is mentally going through my day. So if somebody asks me what’s on my mind, if something not too dull is on my mind, great. Otherwise I talk about some obscure programming difficulty while mentally replaying what I did that day. At some point, I remember something interesting I did/thought or some part of the sequence reminds me of a decent topic to talk about, and I apologize for boring them with coding troubles and segue into that. It starts out awkward and forced, but naturally gets easier (honestly, every response should probably just be talk to a lot of people, especially people you like talking to, and keep practicing), and sometimes the stalling tactic is basically unnecessary since it only takes a couple seconds to get a thought.

      For maintaining a conversation, rather than starting it up smoothly, complimenting whatever they just said can be a pretty good strategy when you’re not sure what to say next. Just saying something like “that’s an interesting take, I’ve never thought of it that way *pause as if reexamining your worldview, (or actually reexamine it)* ” is not a bad way to get people to keep talking.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        I stopped reading at “PRTG” to google what that meant, didn’t find anything, guessed that it meant “pseudo-random topic generator”, and was partway through writing a complaint that people shouldn’t use single-use acronyms when I read a bit more and realised to sort of explained it later on – though still, “pseudo” is not something people can get from what you read unless phrases like “pseudo-random” are close to the front of their brain already.

        I don’t want to take this out on you so much since it’s not a big deal here, but this is something that really, really, gets to me – people using uncommon (or entirely unique even) acronyms. We’re all fast typists, what’s the point? I see this pretty often without many complaints from people, am I in the minority for finding this annoying? I suppose I understand the appeal of talking in a way only people in some ingroup will understand (for that purpose alone rather than the precision that jargon can bring), but if that’s what’s subconsciously going on I think we can agree it’s something to be avoided. Sorry for the rant, I hope this doesn’t come across as mean. I do mean it as more general point, not specifically a dig at you, no offence is intended.

        About your strategy for conversation – I think it’s a good one and I’m going to adopt it but with the notebook approach. I actually found myself today thinking “gosh I wish there was someone around for me to have a conversation with about this thing I’m witnessing, I hope I don’t forget it before I next have a skype call with my long-distance partner!” I *do* forget most of the time though. The fact that we’re not having the experiences together is something my brain is not prepared for. It genuinely thinks it has nothing to talk about when in reality there are loads of things, if only I could prod the mental pathways to them.

        • Charles F says:

          Sorry, I agonized over it for a minute, but decided I thought PRNG was well-known enough that people would get that it was a play on that. (edited the original post)

          I don’t mind unknown acronyms, but I think you are in the majority on that.

        • I see this pretty often without many complaints from people, am I in the minority for finding this annoying?

          There’s at least two of us.:-)

        • Matt says:

          AAAaAA*

          *Also Against Abnormal and Atypical Acronyms

      • fortybot says:

        > PRTG

        Pseudo Radioisotope Thermal Generator?

    • James Miller says:

      Have a child together. Having a child with someone will create a vast set of joys/concerns/coordination problems that you share and often find interesting to talk about.

    • LCL says:

      A) Ask some questions about her life or interests, follow up a bit using active listening, continue in that vein if the topic seems interesting. If it’s not interesting (be honest here), find some angle on it that interests you or ties back to your interests, and talk about that. See if she engages with that or gets bored.

      B) Just start talking about things you like or thoughts you have. Not the weirdest ones, at least initially, but you don’t have to stick to your mental list of totally safe socially approved small talk topics. It’s better not to, actually. See if she engages with that or gets bored.

      Repeat some combination of A and B until it’s clear whether you have enough in common that it’s worth trying to date (or continue dating). You don’t need to have identical interests, and you won’t, but you don’t want to end up spending thousands of hours together with someone whose every interest bores you and vice versa. This is much more important than physical attraction, shared social group, or whatever else you’re considering important.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Oh good, it’s my named problem now.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Sorry. I didn’t mean it in a ‘type specimen’ way…

      • outis says:

        I read the thread that Winter Shaker linked. Did you end up doing the Cyrano experiment? That would be a lot of fun.

        I cannot resist giving my two cents, perhaps because I am also romantically unlucky. I posted my comment on that thread.

    • eclairsandsins says:

      On first dates I like play a game where you take turns asking personal questions to each other. Whenever the conversation stops, whoever was just asked a question asks another one. No matter whether it’s been one sentence or ten minutes since the last question, the continues the conversation when it stops — maybe on a different subject, maybe not. You usually start with generic questions, like “what are your hobbies” but eventually turns to more interesting stuff.

    • littleyid says:

      I read about this conversational technique once (I think in Leil Lowndes’ “How to Talk to Anyone”) where you repeat the last few words your conversational partner says to you before a pause. e.g.

      “I went to the skate park and there was a dog and it was wearing a little fluffy vest.”
      “… a little fluffy vest?”
      “Yeah, it was the cutest thing. And the owner had this t-shirt that was all ‘where’s the beef?’!”
      “… ‘where’s the beef?’?”
      “Yeah, like that political slogan Walter Mondale used in the ’84 elections. Anyway, I got into a conversation with the owner, and …”

      When I first read about this technique, it felt super-weird, but I tried it anyway and it always worked. People seemed really happy that I was doing this, and no-one ever objected. So I thought about it a bunch and I realized that it’s basically pure signalling: “I am listening to your story. Please proceed.” There is almost never a time when signalling that is a bad idea. The actual echoing of their words seems to function as a conversational upvote, significantly more powerful than “yeah” or “wow” or “uh-huh”, any of which can easily be taken as “wrap it up” or “I’m not really listening” signals.

      Note that in the story above, the dog’s fluffy vest and the Mondale slogan were basically just filler details for the main story. You might not have a strong opinion on either of those things, and that doesn’t matter at all. You’re just acknowledging what was mentioned and allowing your interlocutor to proceed with the story, which is >90% of the time exactly what someone telling a story wants.

      One way to think of it is that a conversation’s natural flow is

      P1: talk, talk, talk, pass conch
      P2: talk, talk, talk, pass conch
      P1: talk, talk, talk, pass conch
      P2: talk, talk, talk, pass conch
      etc

      Conversation has several failure modes. e.g.

      Monopolizing conversation
      P1: talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk
      P2: …

      Interrupting
      P1: talk, talk, ta-
      P2: talk, talk

      This technique is basically Preferential Conch Passing (PCP for short? I am terrible at neologisms.)

      P1: talk, talk, talk, pass conch
      P2: upvote, pass conch
      P1: talk, talk, talk, pass conch
      P2: upvote, pass conch

      It’s kind of analogous to letting other cars merge in front of you – you have the legitimate power of the conch, and you graciously yield it.

      Eventually, your partner will ask you a direct question, or you’ll have something particularly valuable to say. Hop right in. But you can easily do three or four (or ten) PCPs between each actual contribution and your conversation will likely be greatly enriched by your doing so – your partner will feel heard, and will in turn be far more willing to listen to you.

      Good luck.

    • phil says:

      Conversations with significant other has a few advantages over conversations with most of the rest of humanity.

      The main advantages are the opportunity to use shared reference points and the benefit of lots of iterations.

      Couple suggestions –

      – Try to be mindful of which conversations topics your partner is truly interested, topics that they will talk at length about. Then be mindful about things that come up that relate to those topics. Those pings tend to be good conversation starters.

      – Keep up with their life. Most of the life situations that they describe to you will first be described mid-situation. At some point in the future, that situation will resolve itself. Guess the right time, then ask what happened? Did that situation resolved itself?

      – One of the great parts of being in a long term relationship is the opportunity to develop inside humor. Situations that only the two of you experienced can serve as the setup for humor that only the two of you will get.

      Work with the medium, use the advantages of the medium.

    • sconn says:

      I have always brainstormed before conversational opportunities; just something my social anxiety makes me do but which hopefully makes me more interesting. I tend to think of stuff like,
      “How was your day/what did you do at work today?”
      “What do you think of the weather/sportsball event/news item today?”
      “Last time I saw you you mentioned X was going on in your life, how is that going?” (Everyone loves this one. It proves you were listening AND remembered, which is obvious proof that they are an important person in your life.)
      “After we talked about X last time, I had a further thought about that. Here it is and what do you think?”
      “I read a news story/blog post/book that seems to overlap with some of your interests, here is a one-minute blurb about it, what do you think?”
      “A funny anecdote happened to me today! Feel free to reciprocate with one of your own!”
      “Here’s something I don’t know about you, which I’d like to.”
      Interesting thought question — “what superpower would you pick?” “what animal would you be?” “would you rather time travel to the future or the past?” Sometimes you can find things like this online; I think they’re fun and explaining why each of you picked what you did can be a fun conversation and reveal a lot about each other.

      If you rely on happening to be thinking of something interesting while you are hanging out with your friend, you’re likely to come up empty. Interesting thoughts worth sharing aren’t generally what float uppermost in your brain at all times.

    • rin573 says:

      Most people are mentioning how to think of topics of conversation and/or listen if your conversation partner is fairly talkative. I’d add that it helps to do some kind of activity together that you can talk about – go to a museum, play a game, try to make a kite, anything that sounds interesting to you or the other person in its own right. This lets you talk about whatever it is you’re doing, but it also makes it less awkward to have conversation die out and restart later.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      Marry someone who won’t shut up.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I think that’s the opposite of useful. Your conversational skills atrophy because you can’t get a word in edgewise anyway.

      • Sorry. I’m already taken.

        • John Schilling says:

          But you role-play a Muslim at least part of the year, do you not?

          • A Muslim with a Christian wife. In persona I am prone to comment on the oddity of Nazarene arithmetic in that context: one plus one equals one.

          • Randy M says:

            That sounds like the kind of observation a Trinitarian may make, but it does not sound like the kind of observation an observant Muslim would make. Is your comment based on one by a Muslim, current or historical?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It took me a bit to parse, but I think David Friedman was talking about husband and wife being one flesh, not the Trinity.

          • Randy M says:

            I get that. But if a husband and a wife can be one flesh, then it is not so blasphemous to say a God and His Son can be one, no? I assumed that’s what “Nazarene arithmetic” refers to, which a Muslim, being strict on monotheism, finds more than an oddity.
            Also, Muslims, being less strict on polygamy, seem like they would not really think along the lines of one flesh, which gets odd if it is transitive.

    • acrimonymous says:

      (1) Choose environments conducive to conversation (different for different people). Even after 2 years, I still have trouble taking to my girlfriend if we go places with a lot of noise or that make me annoyed or uncomfortable.

      (2) Pay attention to body language. Are you signaling that you don’t want her to talk?

      (3) Use props. (Generalized from “get a dog” and “see a movie”.)

      (4) Don’t underestimate alcohol as an ice-breaker. It can make something seem interesting/funny that isn’t so much–for the speaker and the listener.

      (5) Be self-aware when you are with people with whom you speak more comfortably. What are you talking about?

    • drethelin says:

      Insofar as anything works for me on the same problem it’s knowing the other person well enough that things I see as I randomly browse the internet remind me of them and then I can send them a link and we can talk about stuff based on that.

    • AnthonyC says:

      Historically I have had some of this problem. I hated calling anyone on the phone, for example, because I didn’t know what to say. I am still terrible at small talk with acquaintances, or networking at conferences.

      My job has helped me a lot overall. I spend a lot of time in meetings with clients and coworkers presenting things, discussing things, brainstorming. For years, I’ve had no choice but to develop and sustain ongoing professional conversations and relationships with more than an order of magnitude more people than I ever had in my social circle.

      My wife and I definitely talk a lot less now than when we first met. (That’s almost tautological in our case. The day we met wasn’t planned as a date but we ended up sitting on a park bench and talking for about 10 hours). To an extent, I think that some reduction over time is normal and even healthy. How much depends on what the people involved decide they want.

      If you want to generate more topics: I expect you and your partner have a mix of shared interests, separate lives you both care about, and aspects of each of your lives the other is completely uninterested in. I never talk to my wife about the sci-fi or fantasy i’m reading, or a game I’m playing, or physics; she doesn’t care. But in the course of my day at work, and socially, I come across and generate stories – people I encountered, the stories they shared with me, quirky coincidences, things I learned, and news items, all of which are shareable in conversation. We live together and have pets, so there’s always daily life to discuss. We like to hike and paddleboard and travel, so talking about and planning trips and adventures and outings is often fun, especially if either of us has come up with a new idea.

      We have also accumulated a lot of in-jokes that get recycled, re-used, and applied in new ways. Sometimes they become kind of stock conversation filler, but they can also be conversation starters, triggering either of us to think of a different but related idea.

      Totally different direction: A few months ago I got a waterproof notebook w/ suction cups and a pencil and put it in the shower, and now we write each other notes back and forth. All kinds of things: complaints, compliments, musings, ideas for plans, jokes and silly poems and drawings, whatever. Lots of spontaneous conversation fodder comes out of that. And because each individual note is small, and I have time to think and write it out instead of it being live, it’s relatively low-pressure. A white board can serve the same purpose.

      At some point, it can become a question of “Are we really likely to be happy together given the kinds of people we are?” rather than a simple skills question, but I don’t know how to define the line between “improve your skills,” and “don’t force what isn’t there.”

  2. TheWackademic says:

    Do you agree with Trump’s claim that there were “fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville riots? How does that claim affect your view that Trump is not a racist?

    • Alsadius says:

      It seems plausible that there were one or two people there whose primary motivation was actually the preservation of history, or free speech, or something equally reasonable. Obviously most of the march was using it as a cover story, but any group that big will have a misguided dolt or two who got dragged along by friends, or someone who showed up randomly that believed the cover story.

      (This doesn’t excuse very much, of course – showing up cluelessly is one thing, but when the Nazi chants come out, that’s when you GTFO. But they probably do exist.)

      • toastengineer says:

        To be honest, I’m a bit surprised how there’s near-zero coverage of the pro-statues side outside of the actual white supremacists. I heard on the Tom Woods podcast that in New Orleans there was a non-radical anti-demolition organization that was actually led by a black woman, you’d think the contrarian-sphere in general would’ve picked up on that more than once.

        • Jiro says:

          I’m a bit surprised how there’s near-zero coverage of the pro-statues side outside of the actual white supremacists.

          I’m not surprised at all.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        If I’m being charitable, I would say “maybe there were nice peaceful protests to save the statues, but the media is selectively only showing the ‘BLOOD AND SOIL’ and ‘Jews will not replace us’ protests.”

        But if those nice protests exist, surely the nice peaceful protestors were recording themselves and would have brought them forward.

        I haven’t seen them. Or maybe they exist are just aren’t in my bubble. Do they exist?

        • Alsadius says:

          My expectation is that they happened, but in different cities at different times. Free speech rallies that are about actual free speech, not about coded fascism, are things I see from time to time.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @Edward Scizorhands:

          I haven’t seen them. Or maybe they exist are just aren’t in my bubble. Do they exist?

          There’s a video going around (I can’t currently find it – maybe someone else can?) in which an elderly reporter gives her impressions of the rally and then talks about how when she was trying to report on it she tripped and cracked her head on the sidewalk and some nice men rushed over to help – got her water and a washcloth, got her cleaned up, held her hand, made sure she was okay. Then she noticed the men helping her were wearing big guns and part of a militia. It turned out the group she encountered was a (multiracial!) militia group that had come down to neutrally help keep the peace. Since most people (including her) would have counted any armed militia members *near* the protest as being *of* the protest, I’d say that group counts as either “fine people on that side” or “fine people on both sides”.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I don’t think it would be possible for those videos to exist. The rally was supposed to begin at 12:00 and the “unlawful assembly” decree shutting it down happened at 11:30, so the “nice peaceful protestors” (if they existed) never had a chance to do any nice, peaceful protesting.

    • One Step for Animals says:

      You just don’t say that there are “fine people” in a crowd of KKK and Nazis, unless you are a racist or Nazi. Even a racist like Sessions knows not to say it out loud.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        Refusing to cooperate with what you “just don’t do” seems to be one of Trump’s major schticks though, so I don’t think his intentions can be read via that line of reasoning. I wouldn’t be surprised if he said it *because* it’s what you “just don’t” say.

        Or more likely, he wanted to criticise both sides and complimenting them both too was a clumsy way of making sure he wasn’t solely dishing out criticism, since criticism is usually better received if it’s paired with praise.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I wouldn’t be surprised if he said it *because* it’s what you “just don’t” say.

          His personality type is described as having a, when less than fully healthy, psychological trait of poking people to see how they respond.

      • Alethenous says:

        Honestly, calling Trump a Nazi gives him too much credit. I don’t think he has an ideology that consistent.

        • ashlael says:

          I strongly endorse this opinion.

        • spkaca says:

          +1

          Related: fascism is an ideology which has as much internal consistency as other political traditions, and poli sci ought to treat fascism as a distinct ideology for analytical purposes. Back in the day (this was more than 20 years ago in the UK, I don’t know if this is different now) poli sci textbooks analysed movements/ ideologies in terms of a tripartite typology i.e. socialist, liberal, conservative. This struck me as wrong. The implication is that either:
          1. fascism is unworthy of consideration – but poli sci is meant to be analysis, not endorsement. Recognising fascism as a distinct ideology doesn’t imply liking it;
          2. fascism is merely a variant of conservatism – but this is at best arguable, and probably offensive.

          • rlms says:

            I would say that in that triangular typology, fascism is opposite liberalism (between socialism and conservatism, kind of). Libertarianism is opposite socialism, and social democracy/mainstream leftism is opposite conservatism.

          • Alsadius says:

            IMO, Fascism is clearly a variant of socialism – it treats race the same way communism treats class, by picking one semi-arbitrary group to lionize and another to demonize. The primary difference between the two is that fascism is national while socialism leans international, and that communism uses more explicit methods of controlling the economy, but those are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Treating people as nothing but anonymous members of a large group, acting surprised when this doesn’t work out very well, and then killing a bunch of them for being part of the wrong group when you need a scapegoat is pretty much identical between them.

            (Of course, since fascism is so universally loathed that everyone plays a giant game of ideological keep-away to pin it on their opponents, and I’m a conservative/libertarian, this viewpoint really shouldn’t surprise you.)

          • 1soru1 says:

            Alternatively, and probably marginally less historically wrongly, fascism is a variant of libertarianism that takes a different view on what actions are morally permissible in support of property rights.

            Leftists who move from focusing on class to race are still leftists. Libertarians who move from supporting individual defensive violence (i.e. 2nd amendment) to collective and/or offensive violence can be unquestionably fascist without changing their opinion on anything else.

          • JulieK says:

            @1isoru1
            What about people who move from socialism to fascism? (True of many fascists in the 1920s and 30s.)

          • 1soru1 says:

            I’d agree that back then that was a plausible transition, mostly a matter of moving from ‘we are allied with the Russian state elite’ to ‘we are allied with the German (or wherever) national elite’. And then either coming to agree that the alliance has become more important that the reason for forming it, or getting stabbed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Alsadius

            Nazism treated race that way. I don’t think Mussolini or Franco had nearly the emphasis on race.

          • dndnrsn says:

            An issue with trying to define it: Fascism was not hugely ideologically coherent. Fascist ideological statements, etc are far more likely to be post-hoc justifications than the equivalents for liberalism, conservatism, and Marxism are.

        • Randy M says:

          The “Big Lebowski” Trump criticism?

      • James Miller says:

        Trump is a master persuader, and I believe his goal was to persuade marchers to disassociate from the racists/Nazis. Telling someone: “You are racists scum. Stop associating with Nazis.” is probably less effective than telling them: “You might be a good person. Please stop associating with Nazis.” Trump decided to prioritize reducing the number of future Nazis over winning virtue signaling points.

        • jw says:

          I would agree. So much of left wing belief revolves around saying what you think everyone else believes. Actually believing or thinking out your stance is unnecessary.

          i.e. logic supporting your beliefs is secondary to being an accepted member of the group. So virtue signaling is the most important thing. As an individualist libertarian, virtue signaling and it’s completely vapid worthlessness makes my skin crawl.

          • russellsteapot42 says:

            Every side engages in virtue signalling. I have seen some top shelf virtue signalling from anarcho-capitalists and libertarians.

            It’s not about saying what ‘everyone else’ is saying, it’s about saying what ‘your peer group’ is saying.

        • Well... says:

          I want to agree (the Master Persuader model of Trump helped me win a few bets last year) but I also am not sure whether or why Trump would care about there being more or fewer Nazis in the future. And since Nazis seem to support him and he undoubtedly notices that, your hypothesis would make even less sense.

          • spkaca says:

            It does make sense, if you think that Trump recognises at some level that every real-life Nazi is a recruiting tool for Trump’s opponents/ enemies. Let’s posit a counterfactual: suppose the number of actual, active US Nazis were to increase from (say) 1000 to 10,000. That would probably generate at least 100,000 more votes for the Democrats.

          • toastengineer says:

            Maybe the guy just doesn’t like white supremacists just like the rest of 99.99% humanity. I don’t think it makes sense not to assume he has basically the same moral background as everyone else in the U.S.

            I mean, in the past he’s publicly denounced groups he was in because he saw too many white supremacists hanging around…

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          How would you falsify “master persuader”?

          It wouldn’t surprise me if Scott Adams is paid off by “someone.”

          • James Miller says:

            This will take a while to happen but, I suspect that within a few decades we are going to learn a lot about the science of persuasion; how words can effect beliefs and emotions. I predict that future historians using advanced psycholinguistics will recognize Trump as having been a master persuader. In the recent past I won a few thousand dollars betting on Trump becoming President at terms consistent with him having an 18% chance of winning. I make the following short-term prediction: Trump is going to pick his Democratic opponent, someone with so little chance of winning that the Democratic party professionals are horrified that he/she gets the nomination.

          • yodelyak says:

            @James Miller…

            +1 to Ilya Shpitser’s point.

            Also, as a matter of epistemic hygiene, I would recommend you stop spending time with Scott Adams’ blog, if you are. (I recognize the phrase “master persuader.”)

            Scott Adams writes about some things I don’t know very much about. But when he writes about things I do know a good bit about (e.g. climate change), I see him using rhetorical tactics that even my conservative friends have conceded are patent sophism–that is, knowing use of rhetorical technique to make bad arguments look good–intended to let him continue to cultivate a large audience by saying what Red Team already wants to hear without sounding stupid. By analogy, his writing on climate change is like he had written about tooth-brusthing and said, “Sure, 98% of dentists all agree tooth-brushing is good for your teeth, and your teeth are important for your health. But they are all basing that agreement on the models they use for how teeth work–and models can be wrong! And you don’t understand the models, so if they’re wrong, you wouldn’t know!–so you shouldn’t feel like you need to change your behavior.” If you didn’t know at least a little bit about tooth-brushing, or if you tended to relate to the folks whose team made a virtue of skepticism re: teeth-brushing, or if you weren’t pretty sure that your dentist’s opinion is worth something, you could actually be persuaded by that–and people do find his comments on climate change persuasive, but *only* people who lack some relevant background knowledge. My experience is, if someone is being sophist on one thing, they’re being sophist on a lot of things.

            I kind of despair of talking with people online about this kind of thing–I don’t know if this comment will be productive, but dammit I’m trying.

            Maybe take it as just my two cents, I guess?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            amen to Scott being the worst

            that doesn’t mean Trump is or isn’t a ”master persuader”. I think he’s at least good at something…persuasion, or maybe knowing what people want to hear, or just being entertaining. I don’t think there’s nothing there. Not sure how much is there, though.

          • elephantower says:

            The big problem with the master persuader hypothesis is that it conveys a sense of superiority (“lol Trump doubters just don’t understand his amazing 11-D chess moves” without actually making useful predictions. One would THINK that you could predict that a master persuader is successful at endeavours requiring persuasion, but Trump has actually done quite terribly on that score — couldn’t persuade more than 46% of Americans to vote for him against the most unpopular Dem nominee in history, can’t persuade Congress to repeal Obamacare, can’t persuade more than 40% of Americans that he’s doing a good job, can’t persuade establishment Republicans to stop backing Flake et al. Of course, the hypothesis is infinitely versatile at explaining past failures (or should I say successes that us sheeple just can’t comprehend?) but if it can’t make any testable predictions for the next 3 years (until 2020) then it doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job.

            @AnonYEmous: Trump is good at nothing at all. He won because he EPITOMIZES a good portion of the Republican base, who naturally voted for someone they accurately see as representing them. Unlike all the other racist and unintelligent randos that identify with him, he happened to also inherit a large amount of money, giving him the capacity to generate wide name recognition before running. In the general election, he faced a candidate who was not only super-unpopular, but didn’t even bother to conduct polls in swing states in the last three weeks of her campaign. Combined with his aforementioned appeal to large swathes of America (many of whom weren’t exactly loyal Republicans before), this was enough to squeak out a win.

            One other major factor was that, for whatever reason, he actually understood that there are a lot of things wrong with America, and offered all sorts of terrible plans to fix it. This also probably persuaded a lot of reasonably rational yet desperate people to vote for him — if one candidate claims that there’s no problem at all (“America is already great!”) and the other candidate knows that you’re hurting and offers some dubious solution, which would a rational person vote for? I know I’d vote for Trump.

          • Alsadius says:

            Scott Adams has been selling cynicism by the barrel for 30+ years. I wouldn’t be surprised if he took up the thesis as a thought experiment and ran with it.

          • It is only half true at best….T’s hucksterism revolts some as it persuades others.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Trump is definitely good at some stuff — he’s good at “one off transactional interactions” (classic example is selling used cars).

            Trump is a very transactional dude — he once wrote/said that he likes to just show up in the morning to work, and wing it from there.

            Dr. Miller: I am not asking for your predictions, I am asking for what experiment would falsify the claim.

            Re: falsification, read Scott Adams recent post on how failed prediction of “6 months in, it will be awkward to be anti-Trump.” He ate crow, but basically said “this only failed because anti-Trump people are so bad.”

            The fact that Adams failed to predict something wasn’t what was interesting — everyone everywhere ever will fail to predict the future, because predicting the future is very difficult. The interesting part was how he handled being wrong in his prediction.

            Adams is not playing the epistemic rationality game, he’s a shill, as I said before.

          • mobile says:

            Master persuaders would not play the epistemic rationality game.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I don’t find Adams very persuasive.

            The thing with shills is they are predictable — I know exactly how they will respond. I don’t need Scott Adams to tell me what Scott Adams will say, I already know.

          • drethelin says:

            Scott Adams’ position as a salesman for various startups he invests in as well as his own products means he doesn’t have to be paid off by anyone but himself: The more he gets noticed the more money he gets.

          • yodelyak says:

            I find myself again writing +1 to Ilya Shpitser, this time for the point that there’s no real need to read Adams, because you already know what he’ll say. (At least, insofar as he’s talking about politics.) To the extent it contains facts that are inconvenient for redteam, they are the ones redteam has already become aware of, and are mentioned only for the purpose of explaining them away.

            One of my smartest conservative friends (who recommended Adam’s self-help book to me) immediately conceded (and this is a quote): “he’s so cynical he’s more fascist than most fascists, but his self-help stuff works pretty well.”

            I’m not saying Adams isn’t smart, or that nothing he’s written has value. For example, I actually think his self-help book is much better than average, as compared to the usual “personality-type” self-help book. (By personality-type, I am invoking the distinction I learned from the introduction to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which points out that there are “character” self-help books, which focus on habits of excellence (like honesty with oneself and others, hard-work, pro-activity, etc.) and “personality” self-help books, which emphasize tricks or gimmicks to get others to like you/trust you/promote you.

            For examples, the Autobiography of Ben Franklin and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are proto-typical “Character” books, while “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “How to Make People Like You in Ninety Seconds or Less” are proto-typical “Personality” books. I think Adams’ self-help book is pretty good–maybe even the best I’ve seen–but very, very strongly on the side of containing personality-schema tips, and at least a little corrosive to the character side, so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone unless they mix it with a heavy dose of something more character-focused.)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          James,
          Just having the raw belief that he is a master persuader doesn’t buy you much. If you know what his goal is, like winning the election, it tells you something. But the whole point is to guess what his goal is in that utterance. If you think it accomplishes a particular goal, just say that, and don’t bother to make claims about his competence.

          • Evan Þ says:

            On the other hand, it does give you a strong prior that Trump is effectively accomplishing some goal. So, rather than accept that he’s incompetently going toward X, you keep looking around for another Y which it lines up better with.

            I used to think Trump was a master persuader, but then toward the end of the campaign, I decided that hypothesis was gaining too many epicycles to account for his passing up wide-open opportunities. Since he gained office, I’ve seen even less evidence for it.

          • sconn says:

            Right — it feels like the “God has a plan” argument. Given that God is all-powerful, and that shit happens, you must conclude that the shit that happens must be according to a plan. But if there is a plan, one would expect that there would be some kind of pattern pointing to some kind of goal. And that’s not what we see, either in the world at large or in Trump’s method of governing.

            If he has a goal, it’s “getting everyone to love him so he’ll win a second term,” and so far I’m not sure he’s doing very well at it.

      • John Schilling says:

        You just don’t say that there are “fine people” in a crowd of KKK and Nazis, unless you are a racist or Nazi

        Or stupid, or just plain ignorant, or if you are trying to win the support of racists, or to reward the racists who have already supported you in the past, or trying to distract people from something, or signaling your immunity to accusations of racism, just off the top of my head. There’s lots of reasons to defend a group of mostly-racists, not just being a racist yourself.

        I suspect you haven’t really thought this through, don’t really understand how the game of thrones politics is played, and are just looking for an excuse to label Trump a racist because you think that’s an instant checkmate.

      • toastengineer says:

        I think the point is that it wasn’t a “crowd of Nazis,” it was an anti-crushing-the-culture-of-former-enemies rally that got taken over by white supremacists.

      • tocny says:

        I don’t necessarily think this is true. I’m still not convinced that Trump is racist, since everything that could be considered racist that he has done or said could also be explained by him pandering to his base. Condemning the crowd at Charlottesville as Nazis means alienating the people who voted for me, and more importantly some of the only people still supporting him.

        • MrApophenia says:

          The original claim from “Crying Wolf” wasn’t that Trump, personally, is racist. It’s that he backs racists politically more than other Republican presidents because racists like him.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Of course I don’t agree with it. I’ve grown up in modern Blue Tribe culture. I know that if I agree with it, everyone I know will hate me and I’ll never be able to show my face in polite society again. The commenter above me gets this exactly right.

      But if I didn’t know that, I might answer the same way as if you asked me whether there might ever be good people in Hamas, or in the Chinese Communist Party during Mao, or in the IDF, or in the Mafia. I would default to my belief that goodness doesn’t clearly and evenly divide along political lines. I would remember stories like the one about how a black guy befriended KKK members and has so far convinced over 200 of them to leave the organization, and so there was apparently some fundamental decency lurking in those people. I would think about how many people join organizations without really understanding them, or how many people get raised with really weird beliefs and have trouble shaking them off. I would think about how many incredibly bizarre beliefs I hold that most people throughout history would think are evil. And then I would just roll my eyes at you.

      Trump isn’t a part of modern Blue Tribe culture, and so he doesn’t realize that all decent enlightened people have to admit that Hamas has some good-but-misled people in it, but only a Nazi bigot could believe that a protest against removing a Confederate statue could have the same. So instead of doing the correct thing and pointing out that they are all inhuman vermin who have no redeeming qualities and can only be met with violence, he foolishly applied the cultural norms suitable for someone like Hamas in this situation. Oops!

      But on a more fundamental level, I just hate this question and this whole class of questions. Defend this thing Trump did, or else he’s a Nazi! Okay, now defend this thing Trump did, or else he’s a Nazi! Oh yeah, then defend this thing Trump did or else he’s a Nazi! I think many people do weird and horrible things for reasons other than them being Nazis, but if you ask me to justify a couple hundred of them on an individual basis, they’re all going to come off as me being mealy-mouthed, and saying it’s just a weird coincidence, and making excuses (see the Atlantis metaphor on the original Wolf post). Finally you’ll conclude that he’s a Nazi. And probably by that point you’ll add that I’m biased in favor of him and also a Nazi.

      All I can say is that this is how individual and cultural differences work. I think George Washington, Pericles, Ron Paul, and King Abdullah of Jordan are neither Nazis nor monsters, but I’m sure you could find a hundred statements by each which are so foreign to either of our moral systems that I couldn’t defend them, and I’d look Soft On Evil if I even tried. I think it’s hard for some people to conceive of a culture that treats pro-Confederate-statue protesters with the same level of grace that it treats Hamas members, and that it’s definitely hard for them to conceive of a really different worldview, that would cause non-monster people to do things that only monsters would do from within ours. And that’s not even taking into account different mind-designs (I’m not allowed to say this officially, but unofficially Trump is an obvious narcissist and narcissists choose their words and actions in ways very different from the rest of us), and the fact that Trump is a monster in certain ways which just aren’t the exact same ways people are accusing him of being one.

      If you just lack that fundamental understanding that people really thinking different from you is possible, then every time someone does something you wouldn’t, you’re going to interpret it as you + secretly evil. And then you’re going to ask me to defend it, and since I don’t have the superpower to instantly understand every other worldview and mind-design and inject that understanding directly into your brain, I’m just going to be able to come up with some kind of pathetic “Eh, maybe it’s not what it seems”. And I’ll lose status for having to defend the indefensible, and you won’t be convinced.

      All I can do is ask you to remember all those people using Obama’s poor condemnations of terrorism as proof that he was secretly pro-terrorist. Which is more likely: that the one person you hate the most happens to hold an incredibly evil position that almost nobody does (and that he’s shown no other large-scale signs of in his life outside weird ambiguous statement-making) but which would be incredibly useful to your political side in tarring him with the worst accusation with which one can possibly tar someone? Or that you don’t really understand other people that well, and sometimes they say things that would be awkward or bad in your ontology?

      I’m not going to answer these kinds of “WELL HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN TRUMP SAYING X?” questions further on an individual basis, and any time someone asks me to I’m going to link them back here.

      • I completely agree with everything you say in this comment, but I think it’s worth insisting on one specific point you make, namely that people who seriously think Trump is a white supremacist because of a few ambiguous statements he made are essentially committing the base rate fallacy. There are really very few white supremacists and this should inform the inferences we make based on what Trump says.

        • toastengineer says:

          I think it might also be that they genuinely believe the base rate is way higher than it is, “white supremacy is everwhere” and all.

          • Yes, I think you’re right, and this is probably at least in part because they implicitly use a much broader definition of “white supremacist” than the traditional understanding of that expression. See my reply to Nikolai below.

          • ghi says:

            Part of the reason is that their definition of “white supremacy” includes anyone who notices that race does in fact correlate with lot’s of important stuff, e.g., intelligence, criminality.

        • White supremacy and racism mean entirely different things based on the tribe they originate from (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/antiracism-norms-and-immigration/).

          If you believe, as many do, that 20-40% of the US population is generally somewhere between implicitly and actively racist, then it becomes much easier to believe 2-5% of the population are secret, hidden, white supremacists. With more growing daily.

          Whereas red tribe generally views white supremacy to be something that requires people to say “I hate black people.”

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I think people on the left should be pretty worried that the new Nazi-mania is going to make it harder to discuss implicit racism – ie “Racism? Isn’t that the thing where there are Nazis around everywhere? Good thing I’m normal.”

            This isn’t really helping the “racism is a subtle thing implicit in structures of social domination” narrative. If 90% of the anti-racism energy gets focused on some random skinheads who don’t actually care about it, that’s a pretty big waste compared to the places where it might actually matter.

          • Sure, people on the left increasingly use a very broad definition of “white supremacy”, which is no doubt partly why they see white supremacists everywhere. But not all definitions of “white supremacy” are equally good.

            Here is how “white supremacist” is defined in Merriam-Webster dictionary: “a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.” I think this is how the expression has traditionally been understood and that it’s a pretty good definition. It requires not only that one believes white people to be superior, but also that, as a result, they should have control over non-whites, presumably through some kind of coercion.

            By contrast, liberals/progressives increasingly call “white supremacist” anyone who only satisfies the first conjunct, and often people who don’t even satisfy it but e. g. sell burritos while being white. Such a broad definition of “white supremacy” makes it harder to distinguish between run-of-the-mill racist or even people who arguably aren’t even racist and people who not only are racist but who think that coercion should be used to ensure the social domination of white people.

            Insofar as the point of language is to allow us to describe the world in a sufficiently informative way, this broader definition is defective compared to the traditional, more restricted one. I think it’s a pretty good argument against changing the traditional meaning of “white supremacy”. Note that leftists have no problem recognizing that about language when they (correctly) criticize conservatives for calling Obama a “socialist”. They just forget about it when it comes to “white supremacist”, because it’s politically convenient for them.

            Now, if people insist on a much broader definition/use of the term, I guess they can do so. But then it’s less clear why we should worry if Trump is a white supremacist, because in that broader sense, it can include things which are relatively harmless.

          • ghi says:

            To all the people arguing about “white supremacy”, is someone who believes that whites have higher average IQ than blacks a “white supremacist” (btw, the evidence points very strongly in that direction)? Would about someone who also believes that social organization should take this fact into account?

          • 1soru1 says:

            I would say that is a fair description of anyone who believes black IQ is:

            – _significantly_ lower
            – in a way that is immune to _legitimate_ political interventions
            – to a degree unsupported by _non-speculative science_

            Anyone who says ‘they are not equal because you can’t test real numbers for equality’ is more an annoying pedant. Even in a worst-plausible-case scenario where 10% of the populace were proven to be 10% less productive on average, that’s ~1% of gdp, and you’d have to be a very strict libertarian to believe there is no legitimate state action that could fix a problem on that scale.

            The thing is, most white supremacists will happily quote some scientific paper showing a non-zero IQ gap while actually proposing policies that only make sense given at least a sub-species boundary, and probably some kind of glowy racial essence.

            And then they use the fact that people object to the concentration camps and the skulls as evidence they are being persecuted for simply saying what the science is.

          • ghi says:

            I would say that is a fair description of anyone who believes black IQ is:

            – _significantly_ lower

            Well the science supports an average difference of ~10 points does that count as significant?

            – in a way that is immune to _legitimate_ political interventions

            What kind of “political intervention” would you expect to raise IQ?

            Even in a worst-plausible-case scenario where 10% of the populace were proven to be 10% less productive on average,

            Productivity at what job? For jobs requiring high intelligence like, CEO, scientist, or computer programmer the difference in productivity between the top and bottom 10% is orders of magnitude.

          • sconn says:

            See, that’s the trouble. How do you even measure racism when actual KKK generally say they aren’t racist? Everyone says they aren’t racist. And you can’t actually prove whether someone has negative *feelings* for black people, because you can’t read minds.

            Yet, racism actually exists, and I guess I’d really like to taboo the word “racism” and find out what percentage of people fit in various categories like –
            *doesn’t believe racial discrimination exists, so black people who say it does are just whiners
            *believes discrimination exists, but thinks it is sufficient to simply not discriminate oneself, actually working to lessen or counteract it is not important because black people can suck it up
            *really only likes and trusts white people, but doesn’t say so, and tries not to be obviously prejudiced in behavior
            *believes false and hateful things about various minorities, says so in private company, also has minority friends (always weird to be a minority friend of these people, so they can tell you “well, you’re one of the GOOD Hispanics, but all the rest are criminals and rapists”)
            *in private, agrees whites are the only ones who should have rights in this country, quietly discriminates against all others, but doesn’t speak on it publicly
            *demonstrates in a white hood
            *shoots up a black church

            I don’t know which of these categories count as “racist,” but I do know that I know people who fit in all these categories but the last two. So they can’t be THAT rare.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Well the science supports an average difference of ~10 points does that count as significant?

            Obviously if anyone picks the exact value which is the highest possibly compatible with known science, they will correspondingly land on the exact border between partisan and supremacist.

            What kind of “political intervention” would you expect to raise IQ?

            Banning lead in petrol does seem to have made a measurable difference. It’s hard to see how all possible further reductions in environmental toxins could end up doing nothing.

            That aside, IQ is a test score, not of any inherent significance in itself. To the extent it effects real-world things, like skills needed to do a job, other things, like education and training, can substitute. You could do this in a race-neutral way by supplying overall more education than strictly optimal. Or you could take a shortcut and give the target subgroup preferential access to additional years of education.

            Either would do the job; the US seems to be in the process of shifting from the latetr to the former.

            Productivity at what job?

            It is kind of a problem for this approach that some jobs aren’t very trainable, at least within the existing university system. ‘Computer Science’ has a lot to answer for.

            Improving the quality of education available for those jobs would be a major overall win, independent of distributional effects.

          • ghi says:

            To the extent it effects real-world things, like skills needed to do a job, other things, like education and training, can substitute.

            The evidence suggests otherwise. At the very least despite over half a century of attempts no one has yet figured out a way to actually make this work.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            A University is not a trade school.

            A University teaches mathematics (a field of inquiry), it does not teach accounting (a type of work one does involving some types of mathematics).

            A University teaches computer science (a field of inquiry about computation), it does not teach trade skills involved in jobs that use computers (version control software, working in teams, etc.), except insofar as teaching these is helpful for its primary mission.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Philippe Lemoine

            I think I will use John Derbyshire’s definition here. So the phenomenon you describe is White Dominionism, not White Supremacism. I believe WS only refers to the first conjunct. I consider WS to simply be a harmless opinion.

            White Dominionism is no longer viable without a nuclear war because of the existence of China.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @ghi No. Consider that many actual white nationalists don’t consider Ashkenazi Jews white yet believe that they have higher IQ compared to white Europeans. Does that make these people (John Derbyshire, Rushton, Lynn, Murray, etc) Ashkenazi Jewish Supremacist
            s? Nope.

            @1soru1 The B-W IQ gap is still around. Furthermore Ashkenazis and Northeast Asians seem to have no problem with the “white European” IQ test. So we can’t simply dismiss the gap as racism. It has to be something real such as effects of malnutrition, lack of intellectual stimulation, whatever. A fact is a fact is a fact. Facts aren’t racist. Not facing facts on the other hand can cause racism.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            By contrast, liberals/progressives increasingly call “white supremacist” anyone who only satisfies the first conjunct, and often people who don’t even satisfy it but e. g. sell burritos while being white.

            There’s also the issue where finding one axis with racial differences is construed as believing a race that, on average, does better on it is wholly superior to others below it on that axis. It’s much like the blunt misrepresentations of privilege as one-dimensional.

            Quite frankly, even if you showed me convincing evidence that whites score non-insignificantly higher on IQ than blacks, that would not cause me to believe whites are inherently superior. Even setting aside that IQ is a garbage metric, raw intelligence isn’t everything. And there’s a whole host of factors that could be behind it. And even if it were pure biology, it doesn’t explain smuggling in the notion of “lower IQ -> lower rights”, unless we’re living in a nerd fantasy land where meathead jocks are also afforded fewer rights. It takes so many bizarre leaps to get from racial differences to racial superiority that the folks that assert that noticing the former implies belief in the latter are uncharitable jackasses – and the weakmen who actually do follow that insane troll logic are idiotic to the point of belonging near the bottom of the nerd fantasy totem pole they’re preaching.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Gobbobobble I agree that “Low IQ -> Few rights” idea is completely immoral (note that I don’t use “wrong” or other ambiguous terms).

            As for IQ differences we need to admit that they exist. Furthermore if blacks do have lower levels of intelligence than whites or others due to biological reasons that still does not justify discrimination against them. Instead that simply means we need to give them free nootropics instead of EBT. That will be a good transhumanist project as well (IQ-boosting).

          • ghi says:

            Even setting aside that IQ is a garbage metric,

            It’s not. It correlates rather well with tons of metrics for everything from any other attempt to measure what is commonly called “intelligence” to life outcomes.

            And there’s a whole host of factors that could be behind it.

            Except it correlates between parents and children, and adoption studies show it doesn’t correlate with adopted children.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @ghi
            Admittedly it wasn’t exactly the best-structured paragraph I’ve ever written, but you seem to be ignoring the immediately following bit starting with “And even if it were pure biology”. I don’t care to litigate how accurate the ${banned-terminology} axis is, my point is that that axis is dramatically insufficient for determining some sort of overall superiority.

            Hell, since each racial grouping is a distribution – you’ll have plenty of intelligent minorities and dumb-as-bricks white folks – even if you buy into the pretense that “intelligence -> superiority” it does not logically inform black&white (pun not intended) race-based policies. If one wanted to start an IQ-supermacist movement based on such a pretense I suppose that follows, but I don’t get the feeling many white nationalists would be qualified to get on board.

          • ghi says:

            my point is that that axis is dramatically insufficient for determining some sort of overall superiority.

            I don’t feel like getting into pointless semantic arguments about what “superiority” means.

            Hell, since each racial grouping is a distribution – you’ll have plenty of intelligent minorities and dumb-as-bricks white folks – even if you buy into the pretense that “intelligence -> superiority” it does not logically inform black&white (pun not intended) race-based policies.

            However, the people in positions requiring intelligence, including a lot of leadership positions, would be filled overwhelmingly with whites. As far as policy positions would you support elimination of all affirmative action and especially disparate impact programs?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @ghi I agree. Racial quotas only make problems worse.

            There has been no racial quotas in favor of Ashkenazi Jews but they never stopped succeeding.

            As I said below, persecution and racism can not destroy a strong group while affirmative action can not save a weak one.

          • bbartlog says:

            IMO a good litmus test for actual white supremacy, rather than mere race realism or whatever you want to call it, is what someone claims about white versus Asian intelligence.

            Someone who is just a fan of the Bell Curve, or a believer in racial differences generally, will acknowledge that east Asians have higher IQs than white people and that this does basically mean they’re smarter.

            An actual white supremacist will claim that white people have some ineffable additional advantage that still leaves them ahead of Asians. This can take the form of believing in greater creativity, or greater variance (neither of these is supported by actual research), or at the more mystical extremes belief in some animating spirit a la Miguel Serrano.

          • ghi says:

            IMO a good litmus test for actual white supremacy, rather than mere race realism or whatever you want to call it, is what someone claims about white versus Asian intelligence.

            Except that’s not the test the people “fighting white supremacy” are applying.

            For example here’s the first video YouTube in partnership with the ADL sandboxed for “white supremacy”.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @ghi I agree. “White supremacy” is a weird phenomenon that only seems to be harming blacks, mestizos and Southeast Asians. An alternative hypothesis is race realism.

            In fact to achieve racial equality we have to embrace race realism at least as a hypothesis so that we can understand what actually causes racial inequality so that it can be alleviated. Western leftism won’t be able to hide reality if reality happens to agree with race realists for there is almost no race PC in Russia, China and Japan. They will figure out reality regardless of whether Western liberals close their eyes. And….screaming racism at these people don’t work. You can’t go to Moscow to picket homes of Russian scientists or go to China to protest what Chinese scientists have discovered.

          • J Mann says:

            @1soru1

            … is more an annoying pedant. Even in a worst-plausible-case scenario where 10% of the populace were proven to be 10% less productive on average, that’s ~1% of gdp, and you’d have to be a very strict libertarian to believe there is no legitimate state action that could fix a problem on that scale.

            Speaking of annoying pedants, I think your example doesn’t make sense. Why would the scale of the problem indicate whether government can solve it? There are a number of problems much larger that seem intractable to solutions given current technology.

            If we didn’t have to sleep, that would mean 33% of GDP. Does that mean that people who don’t believe that the government can eliminate sleep are even more radical libertarians then people who believe that the government can’t close the achievement gap by boosting low achievement? If the government could just sustain itself without taxes, that would mean 40% of GDP. Is it only radical libertarians who believe that the government can’t come up with a way to fund itself without taxes?

          • 1soru1 says:

            If we didn’t have to sleep, that would mean 33% of GDP.

            This was actually a Doctor Who episode, although one that left the idea kind of hanging. 33% would actually be enough to determine the outcome of conflicts or races between nations, and so hard to avoid on cultural or moral grounds without efficiency forcing the issue. You might well find yourself wanting to sleep, but unable to.

            1%, not so much.

          • random832 says:

            This was actually a Doctor Who episode, although one that left the idea kind of hanging.

            What episode? I remember hearing about a SF novel with it as the premise, but hadn’t heard of a Doctor Who episode.

          • 1soru1 says:

            sleep no more

            As the link explains, the idea was there, and then they threw it out and did something else instead. What the article _doesn’t_ say is that the thing they did instead was terrible and derivative.

        • JulieK says:

          I don’t think Trump is a white supremacist, but I think the biggest argument in favor of that position would be that white supremacists are enthusiastic about Trump in a way that never happened for Romney or McCain or any other recent mainstream Republican.

          • toastengineer says:

            Seems to me like the reason white supremacists think he’s one of them is the left-leaning media constantly going around saying “he’s definitely a white supremacist.”

        • Matthew Green says:

          T here are really very few white supremacists and this should inform the inferences we make

          I’m sorry, I have to push back on this. White supremacy does not mean swastika tattoos and KKK hoods. Those are relatively rare. But as recently as the 1960s — within my parents’ adult memory — major portions of the USA had white supremacy coded into law. It would be extraordinary if in just a few decades a society went from 30-40% actively supporting white supremacy in law to a fringe position. Extraordinary claims, extraordinary evidence.

          My enumeration of “white supremacists” would work as follows: if full-on Jim Crow racism were brought back tomorrow, what percentage of the US population would not object? These are the white supremacists. My suspicion is that we’d be talking about tens of millions of people, not just a few bad apples. Whether Trump is one of them, I don’t know. But I do suspect these are the people Trump is speaking to.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            It would be extraordinary if in just a few decades a society went from 30-40% actively supporting white supremacy in law to a fringe position

            Why? The median population of the US is 38. That’s 1979. The means almost half the population doesn’t even have living memory of a time when MLK Jr day wasn’t a national holiday.

          • There are plenty of examples where a shift in opinion of the magnitude that you are considering took place far more rapidly than what would be necessary for my claim to be true. For instance, between 2001 and 2017, the share of Americans who oppose gay marriage went from 57% to 32%. At this pace, even if we assume that 40% of Americans were white supremacists in 1960, it would have reached 0% by 1987. Of course, the share of people who support white supremacy probably does not decrease linearly, but this back-of-the-envelope calculation should nevertheless make it clear that the kind of change we are talking about is not particularly surprising. Moreover, it’s very unlikely that, even in 1960, 40% of Americans were white supremacists. It would mean that not only every American in the South was a white supremacist, but also that plenty of Americans in the rest of US were, which is very implausible. Of course, if you define “white supremacy” more broadly, then it’s a different story, but see my reply to Nikolai above.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Matthew Green Jim Crow is just segregation. It won’t harm successful groups a bit.

            People such as Northeast Asians and Indians will just successfully cope and if real Nazis show up they will just pack up and evacuate.

            On the other hand the unsuccessful ones have remained unsuccessful even with affirmative action.

          • 1soru1 says:

            The median population of the US is 38.

            What age is the median voter? What happens to that number after adjusting for the bias in the electoral college?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            What age is the median voter? What happens to that number after adjusting for the bias in the electoral college?

            The specific question was about the population, not voters. That aside. Median voting age is 45. The numbers aren’t meaningfully different. MLK was voted as a national holiday in 83, first observed in 86. That’s 31 years ago. Your median US voter wasn’t even able to drive when MLK day was first observed.

            It seems unlikely this pool of voters harbors a deep desire to go back to Jim Crow.

            There is no reasonable scenario where 40% of the population is white supremacist. Whites make up 65% of the voting demographic. To get to 40% white supremacist means that almost two thirds of whites are actually white supremacists. This does not pass the smell test. Not even 2/3 of whites in the 1960s were white supremacists.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Well said Scott.

      • Oort says:

        Is there any specific behavior that would push him over the line into racist/fascist/etc territory? I would think if so, something would have qualified by now.

      • ManyCookies says:

        Somewhat related tangent: I dislike the immediate post-terror attack articles to the effect of “It was a tragedy, but we as a country need to be careful and not further disenfranchise those groups in retaliation, that’ll just make things worse etc.” These articles are well intentioned, but at the same time they’re kind of victim blamey and put more fault on the country/victims than is really appropriate (as opposed to the terrorists killing people).

        I felt the same way about Trump’s “Well there were bad apples on both sides” comments. It’s literally true both sides had bad apples, but saying this immediately after the tragedy strongly implies both groups were at comparable fault, which is untrue (in this case) and rather victim blamey. Obviously that doesn’t come close to justifying the Trump Supports Nazis positions, but I still think his statements were rather misleading and worthy of criticism.

        Or am I just reading way too much into these things?

        • keranih says:

          but saying this immediately after the tragedy strongly implies both groups were at comparable fault, which is untrue (in this case)

          Ehhh. Depends on what you mean by “at comparable fault” – at fault for what? Rioting? I’d say heck yeah, both groups were responsible/contributed. Being unpleasant people? Meh. More assholes in the antifa, by the numbers, but there were also more decent people in the anti-Nazi crowd. For killing that woman and hurting the other people? That’s the responsibility of that guy, just as the responsibility for hurting all the other people injuried that weekend is on the people who struck the blow.

          Did Trump speak inelegantly in a way that could be easily misconstrued? Heck, I could have just stopped at “Did Trump speak?” and the answer would be the same.

          • ManyCookies says:

            Trump’s comment was after the car attack, I’m pretty sure he was referencing that in particular? I think? Lord only knows with Trump? But if we’re assigning any part of the car attack blame to the groups themselves, their shares should not be remotely equal.

        • Jaskologist says:

          The Right : alt-right : Nazis :: The Left : Muslims : jihadists

          • The Element of Surprise says:

            I question this equivalency. The “alt-right” is a fringe movement with views far outside of what is acceptable*, while Muslims are adherent to the world’s second largest religion. If you look for it closely you may find similarly unacceptable views in the Quran, or expressed by prominent Muslim leaders throughout history (which this is true for most religions), but the average Muslim is a nice person who just wants to live their life in their community and without trouble, following the customs they’re used to. The average Alt-Righter actively chooses these values explicitly, and actually swims against a strong current of social pressure while doing so.

            Maybe there is some equivalency somewhere with a group who is just fed up with “PC culture” etc. (maybe “alt lite”? I really don’t know the nomenclature very well), and similar people on other political ends who hold views outside the mainstream but don’t really wish much harm on anybody.

            * ETA: I have to admit though, I don’t know to what degree many / most people at the protest stand behind this, and to what degree this is a mischaracterization by someone who happens to own the domain ‘altright.com’.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            I think the analogy is X:Y:Z meaning “X is criticized for supporting Y by characterizing all Y as Z”.

          • The Element of Surprise says:

            I’m assuming the number of Americans who accept Muslims but don’t accept Jihadists is far greater than the number of Americans who accept Alt-Righters but not (Neo-)Nazis. I expect that characterizing a Nazi as an Alt-Righter, or an Alt-Righter as a Nazi, wouldn’t make much difference to most people. Is this different outside my bubble?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I expect that characterizing a Nazi as an Alt-Righter, or an Alt-Righter as a Nazi, wouldn’t make much difference to most people.

            Now it probably wouldn’t. A while back it could have been explained differently, but I believe that ship has sailed.

            My understanding of the life cycle of the term “alt-right” is thus. In 2007 or 2008, Richard Spencer wants to rebrand White Nationalism to be a strictly pro-white interests group, and you cannot do that while shackled to the legacy of defeated anti-other groups like the KKK and Nazis. So he coins the term “alt-right.”

            No one cares because identity politics weren’t as virulent at the time. Gradually the term expands to include other right wing but non-mainstream ideologies, like monarchists. I first heard the term applied to Death Eaters.

            Then Trump comes around and suddenly lots of people are interested in right wing politics but still hate Jeb Bush. By the time Milo publishes his article on the alt-right it’s essentially everyone who’s opposed to the left who is not a neocon is dragged under the alt-right umbrella. Also, this is the context in which Steve Bannon said Breitbart provided a “platform for the alt-right.”

            Then Trump wins and suddenly Spencer’s on TV heiling Trump and alt-right just means White Nationalists again.

            And then I think in Charlottesville he destroyed any plausible deniability that WN/alt-right was just pro-white and not anti-other by not kicking out KKK and Nazis from the rally. If the entire point of your movement rebrand is to disassociate yourselves from hateful, anti-other ideologies, rule #1 should be “no klan or Nazis.”

            I don’t see how the brand recovers.

        • Shion Arita says:

          I think both groups were at comparable fault though.

          Of course the ultimate fault in the specific incident was the individual who caused it.

          But on the question of who was responsible for creating the situation that enabled and encouraged that, then both groups are at comparable fault. The white nationalists came in there looking for trouble. The counterprotesters came in there looking for trouble. Trouble ensued.

          And I think that right after the tragedy is the most salient time to bring up this issue. Because most people there are not like the murderous car driver. And the potential murderous car driver type is very unlikely to be persuaded not to do such things: he’s looking for an excuse to go off on someone. But the majority of the people invovled are collectively going to be much more ‘normal’ (I’m sure they skew pretty strongly toward the ‘looking for trouble’ types, but again it’s a question of degree) and therefore you might be able to meet them with the message of “don’t go whipping these kind of things up. It creates the perfect envoronment for actual, real, physical, lethal violence to occur. And isn’t ‘stopping the violence’ what you all supposedly want?” I think it’s the best time to try to guide things into avoiding it from happening again.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/08/15/january_daily_caller_video_demonstrates_how_to_plow_through_protesters_with.html

            Admittedly, there are a lot more revenge fantasies than there are people acting on them, but this was a revenge fantasy which included encouragement to act.

          • sconn says:

            The worst of it is, they are STILL having this revenge fantasy. Whenever someone plans a liberal protest online, there are always comments of “I’m going to be there with my big truck and drive through the crowd.” A guy lost his job over one of those comments the other day, and while he insists it was a joke and he wasn’t actually going to run anyone over … how is anyone supposed to tell beforehand if you meant it or not?

            I wonder if the normalization in rightwing circles of “jokes” about running protesters over with cars is what encouraged the guy to try it. A lot of people also seem to think it’s legal to run people down if they’re in the road, which perhaps the killer believed.

          • toastengineer says:

            On the other hand, I heard a lot of people “joking” about car-attacking right-leaning rallies too in college. I think it’s just people say “there are a bunch of Bad People standing in a group, I own a big heavy self-propelled object, there’s an obvious opportunity here” and it doesn’t occur to people that that’s a really fucked-up thing to joke about.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The white nationalists came in there looking for trouble. The counterprotesters came in there looking for trouble. Trouble ensued.

            Don’t forget “The local government and police did nothing to prevent trouble (and arguably willfully abetted it)”

      • Jiro says:

        I’m not allowed to say this officially, but unofficially Trump is an obvious narcissist and narcissists choose their words and actions in ways very different from the rest of us

        I would think the reasons why you shouldn’t say it officially would apply to saying it unofficially as well.

        • engleberg says:

          It’s unfortunate that the best science of mind people work with crazy people. This skews them. Hard bargainers and political people say wild things out of calculation, and from hard experience with what works. So do crazy people, but they don’t have as much experience with what works, and their calculations are unstable. If Trump was unstable, the hard bargainers he dealt with for a half a century in NY real estate would have exploited his instabilities and taken him for every dime. Perfectly sane poker players and dice players and hard bargainers bluff and posture and, over time, leave with the loser’s money. Crazy players lose.

          Trump has some real vulnerabilities in his back trail. NY real estate is a snake pit. Casino money is mafia money. An adult opposition to Trump would do story after story on the evils of NY real estate and mafia casino dealings, mentioning Trump whenever he was involved. It’s not impossible. The real left in NY hates landlords.
          I’ve seen one or two stories about Trump being an evil landlord, but buried in a sea of Cheeto hair, small hands, didn’t oppose Nazis in exactly the D party talking point way stories. If no adult opposition to Trump surfaces, I will vote for Trump again.

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        But if I didn’t know that, I might answer the same way as if you asked me whether there might ever be good people in Hamas, or in the Chinese Communist Party during Mao, or in the IDF, or in the Mafia.

        This is a good way of putting it. Whether you’re looking at communism or white nationalism or any kind of fringe ideology, you are probably going to find some violent crazy people and also some non-violent, non-crazy, generally decent people who just believe odd things.

        Though I also think in all those cases there is a certain amount of violence baked into the ideology itself. Like, it would be impossible to achieve the goals of communism or white nationalism without large quantities of state violence, no matter how much individual adherents might say they want to do it peacefully.

        • Like, it would be impossible to achieve the goals of communism or white nationalism without large quantities of state violence, no matter how much individual adherents might say they want to do it peacefully.

          I’m not sure that is true of either of them, although it depends what you view as their goals. Communism can exist in the form of voluntary communes, such as the 19th century Oneida commune. Worker ownership of the means of production could be produced by workers buying, over time, a majority share in their companies.

          A white ethnostate could be produced by lots of believers moving to some low population country or state and acting in ways that made it more attractive to whites than to blacks. That wouldn’t require any more state violence than presently occurs in most states, just somewhat different state violence.

          • Alsadius says:

            Small groups can exist that follow these models peacefully, but whole societies realistically cannot.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But the failure mode of such systems is state violence. The White Nationalists say they’re not nazis because if everybody just saw things their way the races would choose to separate. Of course not everyone is going to see things their way, so some eggs may have to be broken.

            Anarcho-syndalists think well naturally if you eliminate the state and just let workers act they’ll self-organize in a socialist way. Of course some people are going to not want to do that and so perhaps they need visit to gulag for re-education.

            Yes, I can believe there were white nationalists at the rally who honestly believe that they can peaceful separate the races into happy homogenous societies with no concentration camps, and I can believe among the people I saw in the pictures waving the red flags, black flags, and red and black flags there are people who honestly believe they can form worker’s paradise without gulags. But I think these people are naive.

      • fahertym says:

        Probably one of the best things Scott has written on a value-per-word basis.

      • IvanFyodorovich says:

        I thought about whether Trump could mean the same thing Scott wrote (there are probably good people in white supremacist groups because there are good but misguided people in all groups). He might have, we can’t read his mind, but it doesn’t fit with the context of the argument he was having with the reporters and it seems too interesting a thought for him to actually have. It’s also possible he honestly but mistakenly believed that the rally was a mainstream pro-monument rally with a few alt-righters in the midst, rather than specifically an alt-right gathering. My guess though is that he learned that some participants had MAGA hats and love him, and as the Reddit poster put it, he has a tendency to defend anyone who says good things about him and hate anyone who doesn’t. And if they like him, they can’t really be Nazis or white supremacists (a kind of narcissist reverse no true Scotsman, if they are my followers they can’t believe horrible things I don’t believe). Again, I’m guessing, but it seems in keeping with his character and his general inability to criticize odious people who claim to like him.

        My worry is that it almost doesn’t matter if he is racist down deep. If he decides that Gary Cohn and John Kelly and Rex Tillerson don’t really value him but that various hard right figures do, he’ll find himself on their side defending their views. I don’t think that means death camps, but it might mean pardoning lunatic sheriffs and worse things down the road, like mass deporting undocumented immigrants or putting David Clarke-like figures in positions of real power.

        • ghi says:

          but it might mean pardoning lunatic sheriffs

          So being willing to actually enforce immigration law now qualifies a sheriff as a “lunatic”.

          • rlms says:

            Faking assassination plots against yourself is not a sign of sanity.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            So being willing to actually enforce immigration law now qualifies a sheriff as a “lunatic”

            Arpaio has done some pretty weird and/or obnoxious things that would still be weird and/or obnoxious if it was some other area of law that he was famous for focusing on.

          • Alsadius says:

            No, that’s really not the concern. Sadism, prisoner abuse, large numbers of needless deaths of people in custody, active and enthusiastic racism in policing, and getting a guy to fake an assassination attempt on you and then ruining his life – those are much bigger concerns.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          but it doesn’t fit with the context of the argument he was having with the reporters


          Trump: It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.

          REPORTER: I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?

          • eyeballfrog says:

            This seems most consistent with Trump having the belief that the protest was primarily about the statue removal, and that the white supremacist segment was more of a fringe that the media focused on to make them look bigger than they are. While this is definitely something that the media does, from my understanding they weren’t doing it here. The protest was actually full of white supremacists.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            My comment was about the media who wanted to interpret “there are people here besides nazis that are being treated unfairly” as “nazis are being treated unfairly.” Trying to parse context out of that discussion is doomed.

      • Baeraad says:

        This is why I come here. Well said, sir. Well said.

      • maxaganar says:

        Which is more likely: that the one person you hate the most happens to hold an incredibly evil position that almost nobody does (and that he’s shown no other large-scale signs of in his life outside weird ambiguous statement-making) but which would be incredibly useful to your political side in tarring him with the worst accusation with which one can possibly tar someone? Or that you don’t really understand other people that well, and sometimes they say things that would be awkward or bad in your ontology?

        I don’t think that’s a fair representation of the claim here.

        Trump likes people who like him. If those people happen to be White Supremacists, then *whatever*. They are enthusiastic supporters and they are saying nice things about Trump.

        Seeing this escalate all the way up to swastika-carrying Nazis was something else. I really don’t think it’s crying wolf to be alarmed that Trump cares so little about anything as long as he sees them as on his side.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          He condemned the neo-nazis and the white nationalists. This does not fit in with “he will say nice things about anyone who says nice things about him.” He said there were fine people there on both sides except for the neo-nazis, the white nationalists, and the antifa types.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Begrudgingly. In the second statement. Read off of a script.

            It’s clearly not very important to him to firmly disassociate himself from the white-nationalist elements. He doesn’t do it unless prompted. And then he goes back to being very vague about who exactly he is talking about.

          • tscharf says:

            Are you saying Trump was pressured into saying something others wanted him to say? That’s not exactly known Trump behavior.

            One can choose to not believe what he said, one cannot choose to believe he never said it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What level of dissociation would you like?

            Remember, it’s very important to him and his base to condemn the left-wing violence, because that’s the violence that was directed at him and his supporters during the campaign. The same sorts of people who left their homes to confront the Unite the Right rally, with masks and improvised weapons, are the same sorts of people who beat up people at Trump rallies, stomped on cop cars, tried to take a cop’s gun and shoot Trump, or rushed Trump’s stage (and then got rewarded with a positive CNN interview).

            Commies and nazis are fighting in the street. The devil on my shoulder says “MOAB” but that pesky angel says “all of this violence is bad, everyone has the right to speak, and I don’t want any of these people to have political power” which is basically what Trump said.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Are you saying Trump was pressured into saying something others wanted him to say? That’s not exactly known Trump behavior.

            It is, in fact, known Trump behavior which, while infrequent, is also usually repudiated by his next extemporaneous remarks. This is a pattern.

            @Conrad Honcho:
            I would like the level of disassociation that comes with him sincerely placing a priority on actively preventing the appearance of association. The kind of disassociation where your first impulse isn’t to claim you do not to know who David Duke is. Something like the kind of disassociation that Trump instinctively makes immediately and forcefully every time he hears about a putative terrorist attack that may have been carried about by a jihadist Muslim.

          • tscharf says:

            Trump’s history on David Duke

            2000: “Well, you’ve got David Duke just joined — a bigot, a racist, a problem. I mean, this is not exactly the people you want in your party.”

            Trump’s not presidential as defined by what the educated class wants. Everyone understands this. However part of his appeal is that he doesn’t stick to a script 24/7. HRC et. al. are much better at this (exception deplorables). If that’s what you want.

            Personally I’m rather tired of robotic polished politicians. They seem like human simulations by a mediocre coder (Gore, Romney). I don’t particularly like the Trump version of the opposite of this, but that was the only choice on Nov 8th. I’d prefer a kinder, gentler, honester version of Trump, like 99% of his supporters probably do.

            Over the past few decades the media’s gotcha game has become exhausting. I don’t care what somebody said yesterday if they correct it today. I care what they really think, not that they are super good at never ever making a mistake in front of the press.

            Obama: bitter clingers
            HRC: deplorables
            Trump: Fill in something he said yesterday

            Trump loses this game by a thousand miles. It’s not the game that matters to me. Eloquence has value, but not that much in my view. Screaming “Trump is flawed” is only met with “yes we know, you’ve pointed that out”. I’d still rather have a conservative justice than robo-HRC who does global politics better.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @tscharf:
            Trump in 2015 –

            Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. Okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know. I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.

            I mean you are making a laughable argument at this point.

            If Trump was regularly making today the kind of statements he made in 2000, he wouldn’t have this particular problem.

          • tscharf says:

            Trump is either lying or doesn’t actually remember his prior statement from 15 years prior. This is the exact game of gotcha that is ridiculous and pointless.

            What do you think Trump’s view on David Duke is?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @tscharf:
            I think his view on David Duke today is about what it was in 2000, which is “How can I position myself in regards to David Duke in a way that I perceive to be advantageous.”

            He doesn’t really care whether David Duke or the KKK is racist, at a moral level. He only cares how he can leverage them.

          • tscharf says:

            Multiply known evidence by zero and add what your ideological leanings are. That usually results in an emotionally satisfying answer.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How much do people who don’t follow David Duke know about David Duke? I don’t see anything inconsistent in what Trump said.

            I understand these people to you are an outgroup. They are in direct opposition to you, you hate them and they hate you. To me, a conservative, Red Tribe, capitalist, republican, small government American, they are a far group. They’re completely irrelevant. They have no political power. They have no influence. No one references them or respects them or even notices them. Richard Spencer has never been introduced as a “friend of the show” on Hannity. Ann Coulter does not cite the “scholarly research of Dr. David Duke.” The only time I’ve ever seen her mention him is to wonder if he exists in cryo-freeze to be thawed out by CNN every time they need to associate conservatives with a boogey-man.

            We simply don’t care about these people. How much hatred do you want us to muster for irrelevant morons? On the other hand, the left-wing rioters are actively beating up or trying to murder the people I support politically and culturally (Trump, Trump rally goers, police, Republican congressmen). And those people are not at all ignored by left-leaning media, but given cover as “peaceful protestors.”

            Yes, I disavow the far group. I do not agree with their politics, but I don’t really need to engage with them otherwise because they’re thankfully irrelevant. Now the other people, though, they seem to want to enslave me to the state, or perhaps beat or kill me for my resistance to being enslaved to the state. How much emotion can you summon to distance yourself from Antifa, and from the people who showed up to riot at Trump’s rallies in Chicago, San Jose, etc? If you don’t produce enough invective, and disavow them loudly and frequently enough (basically every time I demand you do) that means I get to accuse you of being a Stalin-loving Bolshevik who wants to murder me and my entire family in a gulag and all politicians and political causes you support are tainted by association.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I think you have the wrong model of the relationship of folks in the black block to folks with true levers of power on the left.

            This is useful reading also:

            http://dashboard.securingdemocracy.org/

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            I think you have the wrong model of the relationship of folks in the black block to folks with true levers of power on the left.

            My model is that the black block folks are the useful idiots of the self-interested generally leftist political elite. For instance, the Chicago riots peaceful protests were organized in part by MoveOn.org, which is funded by people like George Soros, who also fund the DNC and funded Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

            Essentially it’s the elite paying to incite and organize the lumpenproletariat against the working and middle class. No, the government can’t beat dissenters in the street and stifle free speech, but the business interests that fund the politicians can pay people to incite the desperate to do it for them.

            Accurate or no?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I think you are both getting the class element wrong. I would wager that the average antifa is more likely to have a university degree than the median American. I also think that the right-wing notion that there’s this “incitement” by George Soros or whoever that’s a necessary condition is completely wrong. When you look at the modern antifa movement, it started off as leftist punks using their fists to drive nazi punks out of the punk scene, and since then has become people who use their fists to deny a platform to/just plain mess with the far right (for varying definitions of “far right”). If there’s some shadowy Uncle Moneybags somewhere funding this, he’s an idiot wasting his money, because people were willing to do it for free anyway.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            C’mon. He knew exactly who Duke was in 2000. Knew he was a member of the KKK.

            He also had been reminded of this fact multiple times already in 2015 when he gave that quote. The “I don’t know who Duke is” holds no water at all.

            So, he didn’t want to come out and say what he said in 2000. David Duke is a bigot, a racist and a problem and he doesn’t want him in his party.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Essentially it’s the elite paying to incite and organize the lumpenproletariat against the working and middle class.”

            This is definitely not right. If by the “lumpenproletariat” you mean the classical Marxist sense of the word, then folks running around in black masks are definitely not it. Marx _defined_ the lumpenproletariat as the permanently politically passive part of the proletariat. Regardless of what your feelings about the black mask folks, they are certainly the opposite of politically passive.

            (This is a joke.) You know what you sound like? You sound like the Illinois Nazis from the Blues Brothers: “The Jew is using The Black as muscle against you. And you are left there helpless. Well, what are you going to do about it, Whitey? Just sit there? Of course not! You are going to join with us. The members of the American Socialist White Peoples’ Party. An organization of decent, law abiding white folk. Just like you!”

            Like most people, I don’t run in their circles, but my guess is most black mask folks are fairly privileged white kids from liberal parts of the country.

            From the point of view of the elites on the left, folks who engage in violence are an enormous problem because all they do is feed the alt-right, while accomplishing precisely zero useful things for them. Nobody is funding them.

            In general, I see a lot of insanity from the right, re: Soros and funding. Things like “oh these signs are manufactured, therefore these protests are paid.” It’s like these guys haven’t done their basic reconnaissance of the enemy and gone to a leftist protest even a single time.

            You should read my securedemocracy.org link sometime.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Less comparing me to neo-nazis, comedic or otherwise, please.

            I’m talking about class not race. Yes, I can agree people who identify as Antifa, specifically, are liberal college students who wanna be hardcore. But that is a subset of all the people who show up to these events. At the San Jose rally the people waving Mexican flags and jumping on cop cars do not seem like white liberal college kids. Same with the BLM rioters. They seem like Marx’s description of the lumpenproletariate:

            beggars, prostitutes, gangsters, racketeers, swindlers, petty criminals, tramps, chronic unemployed or unemployables, persons who have been cast out by industry, and all sorts of declassed, degraded or degenerated elements.

            They may have been no use to Marx, but Marx didn’t have the mass media and leftist organization that exists today. Consider the guy from the Project Veritas video bragging about how he pays mentally ill people to disrupt Republican events.

            In general, I see a lot of insanity from the right, re: Soros and funding. Things like “oh these signs are manufactured, therefore these protests are paid.”

            Somebody’s paying for those signs. Somebody’s paying for the websites listed on the signs. Somebody’s paying for the organization that maintains those things. Somebody’s paying to keep records of the people interested in showing up to these events. Somebody’s paying them to get the word out where and when a protest is going out. Somebody’s paying to make sure people are there to hand out the signs.

            I’m not saying the protestors themselves are paid, I’m saying the protests are paid for. That is, they are organized and arranged by organizations which have paid staff. They do not spontaneously generate. The people doing the generating are receiving paychecks, even if the bodies they’re turning out in the street are not. If you removed the money from the organizations doing the organizing, the protests/riots would not exist. So what is gained for the people writing the checks?

            When someone points this out, suggesting they’re a crazy neo-nazi conspiracy theorist seems like a form of gaslighting.

            As for your link, I looked at it. I agree propaganda exists, but I’m slightly more concerned by the massive corporate and corporate-left propaganda machines run out of CNN, NY Times, WaPo, etc, than some retweets from RT.

          • random832 says:

            I’m not saying the protestors themselves are paid, I’m saying the protests are paid for. That is, they are organized and arranged by organizations which have paid staff. They do not spontaneously generate. The people doing the generating are receiving paychecks, even if the bodies they’re turning out in the street are not.

            Even granting that this is true, it does not mean that “the bodies they’re turning out in the street” don’t have legitimate feelings and concerns. Which is why most people who talk about paid protests do claim that those people are being paid, because their explicit goal is to suggest that nobody (or not enough people to matter, and certainly not enough people to fill the streets) actually holds those views.

            Also, you’re talking about the money in the abstract, without making any differentiation between the often explicit claim that it’s being driven by rich activists vs grassroots donations. You talk about what the money’s spent on because there is no evidence for the right-wing claims about where the money comes from.

            This is not in any way a legitimate steelman of the standard “paid protestors” claim.

          • tscharf says:

            There’s probably a mix of people in Antifa just like any of these extreme groups. The recent swelling of their ranks is probably a bunch of bored liberal college students who want something to yell about and don’t want to miss out on the revolution (whatever that is). If it comes down to actual dangerous violence my guess is this group will decline to be members anymore and go back to class. The hardcore members who jump on cop cars and attack people with knives are less likely college students, some mix of common criminals looking for a good time and hard core devotees.

            Their media apologists have turned on them since the latest Berkeley beat down. The media find it very hard to support a group actively and violently opposed to free speech, they do have priorities. It is kind of humorous that the violence for the alt-right is pure evil, while violence on the alt-left is just bad tactics.

            The new chancellor at UC Berkeley is showing some spine (good for her) and is committed to allowing conservative speakers. They be using fightin’ words.

            We’re doing what we can to support an academic mission to provide a wide view of opinions and perspectives,” he said. “For those who choose the path of violence and confrontation, we will meet them head on.

            Alternately the mayor of Berkeley seems to think Free Speech Week should be cancelled because he is afraid Antifa will be violent. Heckler’s veto. A conservative is scheduled in a couple weeks, that should be interesting.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            To what degree is money and a logistics system required for people to put on bandannas and hoodies and punch people in MAGA hats?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Less comparing me to neo-nazis, comedic or otherwise, please”

            Less repeating of things that sound like ancient Neo-Nazi memes, please?

            My advice is go undercover to a single leftist protest. Just one. I promise nobody is going to brain wash you. You might then know what you are talking about.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            Do you want to call George and say we need the good signs because we’ve got a guest, or should I?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Pretty sure my appearance screams “narc.”

            Anyway, if you’re not going to apologize for abstain from comparing me to neo-nazis for noticing that organized protests are organized by organizations that have budgets for organizing then there’s no point in continuing.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            You literally said the elites use the lumpenproletariat against the middle class.

            This is (a) not true, (b) an ancient neo-nazi meme, so ancient that the blues brothers, a silly non-political musical picked up on it, (c) wouldn’t even be a useful thing for the elites on the left, assuming maximal evil on their part.

            You are just not reading the situation correctly, but then it’s not really to my advantage to educate you.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Conrad

            Somebody’s paying for those signs. Somebody’s paying for the websites listed on the signs. Somebody’s paying for the organization that maintains those things. Somebody’s paying to keep records of the people interested in showing up to these events. Somebody’s paying them to get the word out where and when a protest is going out. Somebody’s paying to make sure people are there to hand out the signs.

            I’m paying for them. I send twenty bucks a month on auto-withdraw to a group called Missouri Jobs with Justice. They’re one of the organizers of the “Fight for 15” campaign. I’ve shown up to one of the rallies as well. Maybe two. I have a shirt somewhere.

            You’re correct. The signs cost money and they have paid staff (I think the shirt was a fundraiser.) But the money doesn’t come from some nefarious foreign billionaire. It comes from me and people like me.

            What am I getting for my money? Hopefully a better country. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.

            I confess I don’t expect much. The labor movement has been dying for decades. But I mourn its passing, and I think the country will be much worse off for it. This small thing is what I try to do to help. It’s not much, but it’s what I can do right now. (In my defense, my wife is much more involved in this sort of thing. Probably my biggest contribution is watching the kids while she goes out and does stuff.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “You literally said the elites use the lumpenproletariat against the middle class.”

            I’ve seen something of the sort in Disney movies, if you’ll grant that lower class criminals count as lumpenproletariat.

            The only one that comes to mind is 101 Dalmations, but I think there was at least one more.

          • Charles F says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            Well, there’s the Lion King, where scar uses the hyenas against the rest of the pride.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “I’ve seen something of the sort in Disney movies, if you’ll grant that lower class criminals count as lumpenproletariat.”

            Quite. I think if your theory about the outgroup elite has them behaving as a cartoonish villain in a Disney film (literally!) probably your analysis could use some honing.

          • random832 says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            organized in part by MoveOn.org, which is funded by people like George Soros, who also fund the DNC and funded Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

            *ahem*

            MoveOn.org closed its 527 committee in 2008. It now operates a federal political action committee, which must disclose its donors and cannot accept more than $5,000 from any single source.

            So where exactly does that leave the notion that a significant portion of their funding comes from mysterious “elites”?

            And, regardless of where the money comes from, the core narrative being pushed by right-wing commentators is “You aren’t advancing your own interests, you’re being used for their interests” – sometimes with various numbers of brackets implied or explicitly written around the word ‘their’. That’s incredibly offensive and it’s important to be careful about repeating or justifying those claims with no evidence.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Ilya Shpitser, I find it more interesting that Disney was using a neo-Nazi meme, though admittedly in toned down form– just one wicked elite person rather than a society-wide conspiracy.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            There is probably a name for this blind spot: folks consistently underestimate grassroots support in the outgroup. This is common on the left also with e.g. the NRA being postulated as an evil brainwashing org., whereas in reality there’s just a lot of support for gun rights in more rural areas.

      • MrApophenia says:

        It seems like you’re moving the goalposts a bit, honestly. The claim you argued against back in “Crying Wolf” wasn’t that Donald Trump was a Nazi, it’s that he was more friendly to white supremacists than previous Republican presidents or candidates.

        As it happens, we have some evidence here! Since Charlottesville, every living Republican president before Trump, and most of the living candidates, issued statements specifically as a reaction against Trump’s. In very strange ways that former presidents and candidates do not normally do, almost as if they saw something really weird going on that required abnormal action.

        “Trump is in the KKK’s corner because he’s a narcissist and they say nice things about him” isn’t a refutation – it’s what the left pretty much believes too.

      • The Big Red Scary says:

        Thank you for the post and the extended comment. May it encourage more of us to make an attempt to be reasonable about these issues.

        I’d like to make a minor point about the extended comment. As far as I can gather, Hamas is being used as an example of a group that it is widely considered condemnable but in which open-minded people might find decent members. I don’t know much about Hamas, and I presume the same is true for most of the readers here. What one passively absorbs from mass media in a single country does not count as knowledge, though perhaps some average of what you absorb in a variety of countries and languages is enlightening. So it is hard to know if Hamas is being given a fair characterization without doing a lot of research. Moreover, Hamas should be almost irrelevant to a discussion of American politics. In general, it seems better to choose examples from a more distant but somehow more relevant history with which the readers are expected to be familiar. Since the American Civil War is apparently still controversial, maybe the American Revolution would serve better.

        + Preemptive: I’m not trying to start a conversation about Hamas. This seems neither the time nor the place. I am simply suggesting that Hamas as an example is a distraction.

      • Loiathal says:

        But if I didn’t know that, I might answer the same way as if you asked me whether there might ever be good people in Hamas, or in the Chinese Communist Party during Mao, or in the IDF, or in the Mafia. I would default to my belief that goodness doesn’t clearly and evenly divide along political lines.

        Scott, I think you’re making some sort of projection bias here. If you said that, I’d assume you were being honest and trying to accurately represent your beliefs, because you have a long history of attempting to be honest, charitable in your representations of others, and both accurate and precise in your manner of thinking about others.

        On the other hand, Donald Trump has never demonstrated any ability to express nuanced thoughts or beliefs whatsoever. Things, people, and groups are GOOD, or they are BAD. I don’t really believe he thought carefully about those claims at all.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          On the other hand, Donald Trump has never demonstrated any ability to express nuanced thoughts or beliefs whatsoever. Things, people, and groups are GOOD, or they are BAD.

          But he said the Mexicans were bringing drugs, crime, rape, and some, he assumes, were good people. Isn’t that nuanced, and true? What I got from the media instead was “Trump says all Mexicans are rapists.”

          Same thing with Hillary’s campaign commercial about how Trump called “women” “fat pigs,” when no, he called Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig. I think it’s Trump’s critics who can’t tell the difference between Rosie O’Donnell and all women, when Trump has no trouble telling the difference between Rosie O’Donnell and other women, and is even observant enough to classify women into “fat pig” and “not fat pig” categories.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The phrase “some, I assume” does a fair amount to dissuade one from thinking this was a nuanced take. Especially with the rhetorical tactic of placing special emphasis on “I assume.”

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            Are you seriously trying to claim that “some, I assume, are good people” is nuanced? Where I come from, we normally call that “transparently covering your ass”. If I were to say that Trump is an incompetent thin-skinned ignorant boorish fraudulent omnihypocritical demagogue with some (I assume) good traits, would you give me credit for thoughtful nuance?

            (Also: nobody ever claimed that Trump called all women fat pigs. They claimed that he is the sort of person who calls women fat pigs, which is indisputably true. If you don’t have a problem with that, it’s on you.)

            Edit to add: as a first stab at drawing a principled distinction between nuance and ass-covering, I would say that you don’t get credit for nuance unless your admission that the issue is complicated has an actual impact on your conclusion.

          • random832 says:

            What would you have said in his place?

            Let’s assume the steelman version of what he meant to say is that there’s a selection effect: that people who immigrate from Mexico are those of the lowest economic status rather than an equal cross section of all Mexicans, and furthermore that people who illegally immigrate disproportionately include people who are willing to break other laws, who cannot enter the country legally because of criminal records, etc.

            How would you get that point across in a political speech that can’t be misquoted and misinterpreted?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @random832:
            Well, first off, by not making a speech that clearly implied that the “good people” were a tiny minority whose existence could not be known but could only be theoretically assumed.

          • Iain says:

            That steelman is transparently not what Trump was saying: for one thing, the speech in question never even gestures at a distinction between legal and illegal immigration.

            If he were actually trying to make that point, he could have taken some time to talk about the good hard-working, law-abiding immigrants who followed the rules and waited their turn, and how they are making America stronger, as a contrast with the horrible evil no-good very bad illegals. (Of course, he still probably would have been called out, because his entire premise — that illegal immigrants have a tendency to commit crimes beyond the obvious one — is false, but I find it hard to extend much sympathy.)

          • tscharf says:

            My take on this (at a time when I had zero intention of voting for Trump) is that he wanted tougher illegal monitoring to screen out criminals and there are US citizens who are victimized by some illegals and these victims count too, in fact US citizens count much more. He is unwilling to help illegal Mexicans at the expense of US citizens.

            NOTE: I’m not agreeing with any of this, it is just what I thought he was saying.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I still see more nuance on Trump’s side than the opposition. Trump repeatedly says there are many great immigrants, who come legally, who are wonderful workers, he’s been friends with or employed many Latinos and Hispanics, etc etc, but that there are also bad hombres who have to go back. That is nuance.

            The opposition does not seem to want to acknowledge the existence of bad hombres, nor even the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, to the point of making up euphemisms like “undocumented Americans” and “dreamers.”

            I do not buy “my side is nuanced and your side is not.”

          • Iain says:

            The opposition does not seem to want to acknowledge the existence of bad hombres, nor even the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, to the point of making up euphemisms like “undocumented Americans” and “dreamers.”

            Under Obama, DHS had a specific focus on deporting criminals:

            As detailed below, the Obama-era policies represented the culmination of a gradual but consistent effort to narrow its enforcement focus to two key groups: The deportation of criminals and recent unauthorized border crossers.

            The most recent enforcement figures released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on December 30 offer the latest evidence of these trends. Eighty-five percent of all removals and returns during fiscal year (FY) 2016 were of noncitizens who had recently crossed the U.S. border unlawfully. Of the remainder, who were removed from the U.S. interior, more than 90 percent had been convicted of what DHS defines as serious crimes.

            The Obama administration also focused on formal removals over returns. Removals leave a lasting legal record and make recidivism much harder.

            Or see this, from the same link:

            In November 2014, President Obama announced a number of further changes in immigration enforcement, including agencywide policy guidance on which categories of removable noncitizens should be the highest priority for enforcement. Three levels were detailed:
            Priority 1: National security threats, noncitizens apprehended immediately at the border, gang members, and noncitizens convicted of felonies or aggravated felonies as defined in immigration law.
            Priority 2: Noncitizens convicted of three or more misdemeanors or one serious misdemeanor, those who entered or re-entered the United States unlawfully after January 1, 2014, and those who have significantly abused visa or visa waiver programs.
            Priority 3: Noncitizens subject to a final order of removal issued on or after January 1, 2014.

            That is exactly the sort of policy that you would design if you were interested in protecting the American people from “bad hombres”. Instead of trying to rack up higher numbers by deporting kids who moved to America when they were six, the Obama administration focused on a) getting harsh on actual criminals, and b) recent arrivals. (If you want to reduce illegal immigration, the latter makes a lot of sense: your goal is to dissuade people from trying in the first place. The more you focus on recent arrivals, the less enticing it looks for people who are thinking about giving it a shot.)

            So, “my” side is pretty clearly okay with targeting the bad guys. It is also, however, able to tell the difference between a bad hombre and a childhood arrival who grew up American. What is the benefit of deporting the latter? Since your side is no less nuanced, I’m sure you will be able to find plenty of examples of people honestly grappling with that issue. (Sneering at “dreamers” as a euphemism is not a good start.)

          • random832 says:

            …and a childhood arrival who grew up American.

            Cynically, I suspect many right-wingers do not consider these people’s upbringing to be sufficiently “American” for this description to apply.

          • tscharf says:

            I think that not acknowledging bad hombres is more of a media indictment?

            This is a selection bias in the media where they will flood the zone with anecdotal police shootings but totally ignore crimes by illegal immigrants. It’s a preferred narrative bias.

            Trump would highlight these crimes but the media wouldn’t touch them in their coverage. I follow the NYT and they covered this exactly once in over a year to my knowledge.

          • Iain says:

            Shockingly, the NYT also refuses to cover the heinous crimes of cardiologists.

            Studies consistently show that illegal immigrants (and, indeed, immigrants in general) commit crimes* at lower rates than native-born Americans. So why should the NYT highlight murders by immigrants? Why not schoolteachers, or plumbers, or Jews?

            * Other than the obvious one, of course.

          • tscharf says:

            The simplistic logic here is sound. If we didn’t let any illegal immigrants in then we wouldn’t have any illegal immigrants committing crime. The children of Trump’s props would be alive.
            It’s the same mentality with Muslim terrorists.

            The debate over whether it’s a net plus or a moral obligation can continue from there. My understanding is crime is a wash and the first generation is an economic negative.

            I don’t really have strong feeling on this subject, but the media pushes a narrative that illegal immigrant are nothing but a positive, their overselling of this is obvious. I think CNN’s coverage of stronger immigrant laws was 30:1 negative while the nation is 50/50. Tell the whole truth. They do commit crime, they do suppress wages in some areas, they do tax the safety net. They also add value in lots of ways. It’s a trade off.

            The NYT times would cover it for the same reason it covers victims of anecdotal cop shootings. It’s a controversial election issue and people care. Stories like this aren’t helpful to the cause.

          • Iain says:

            And if we didn’t have any plumbers, we would have no plumbers committing crimes.

            Four in ten Americans believe that God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years. Should CNN’s coverage of evolution be balanced accordingly?

            Empirically, wage suppression is not really a thing. (More here, on the lack of a wage suppression effect following the Mariel boatlift in Miami.)

            Moreover, illegal immigrants are prohibited from accessing most of the social safety net, even thought they contribute in a variety of ways: for example, this government report estimates that unauthorized immigrants contributed net $12B to the cash flow of Social Security. Do you have any sources showing that illegal immigrants are a net drain, or are you just repeating talking points?

          • hlynkacg says:

            In regards to wage suppression, the Vox article is interesting and warrants further attention but Time appears to be playing the old use national averages to erase local variation card.

          • Iain says:

            @hlynkacg:

            Fair enough. But do you know of any empirical studies that don’t fall into that trap, and actually find an effect? This is not my area of expertise, but I just spent some time searching and found nothing of interest.

          • tscharf says:

            @Iain,
            I’m not going to play dueling articles with you. Activists and advocates say the exact opposite of each other. You are proving my point, the media representation is clearly biased. There are other sides of the argument, good luck finding that at Vox. When we educate illegal immigrants, when they use our emergency rooms, when they use our roads, etc. etc. etc. it costs real money. Border patrol costs money. Deporting people costs money. Until such a time as they pay enough taxes to cover these costs they are a net negative. If you want to let high skilled immigrants in then that’s another conversation.

          • when they use our roads, etc. etc. etc. it costs real money.

            Roads are mostly paid for by gasoline taxes, which immigrants who drive pay.

            Border patrol costs money. Deporting people costs money. Until such a time as they pay enough taxes to cover these costs they are a net negative.

            Border patrol and deporting people are costs of immigration restrictions, not costs of illegal immigration.

            If this is really your argument, have you looked at the per capita cost of emergency rooms, the cost of border patrol and deporting people? Compared it to an estimate of what illegal aliens pay in sales taxes, social security taxes for benefits they can’t get, and the like? Given the resources of the internet, it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out whether you have a plausible case or not.

          • tscharf says:

            I provided links. Is The Economist, Wikipedia, a professor of economics from Harvard not a good enough “resource of the internet” or shall I go to Vox and Time? The problem you get here is that diametrically opposed viewpoints are almost impossible to sort out on this subject. The experts don’t agree, it’s complicated, and the media is one sided.

            I made no assertions they pay nothing. Is your view they are a net plus and it’s not controversial in economics?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Is it reasonable to just compute this in tax money without including the large amount of work that illegal immigrants do?

          • tscharf says:

            Different people make different assumptions, which is why anybody can find the answer they like. Illegals pay sales tax, property taxes one way or the other, gas taxes, car registration fees, employment taxes when they work on the books, add value for their employer, etc. They spend money they make in the local economy, they have children who are just as likely to become upstanding citizens, and they might actually be “fine people”, ha ha.

            If 100M immigrants came in and paid employment taxes our social security deficits are solved for the time being.

            It’s become too polarized and I don’t know any info I can really trust here.

            My guess is most people’s opinion probably doesn’t hinge on the cost/benefit ratio anyway. It’s morally based.

      • trivialanalyst says:

        Commenting for the first time because I’m honestly baffled by this, in a way that I almost never am from your writing.

        Hamas is a murderous, genocidal organization. If a President said “There are some good people in Hamas,” and didn’t follow it up with something like “…who have ignorantly associated with a monstrous group,” I would be justifiably outraged, as would most other people. What would be the purpose of saying that without the necessary context (that those “good people” should get the hell out)? It would basically be a moral hand-out to Hamas.

        I seriously have no idea what you’re getting at here:

        But if I didn’t know that, I might answer the same way as if you asked me whether there might ever be good people in Hamas, or in the Chinese Communist Party during Mao, or in the IDF, or in the Mafia. I would default to my belief that goodness doesn’t clearly and evenly divide along political lines.

        Is the Mafia a “political line”? Should the President say that there are good people in the CCP, and just leave it at that? Forget the President – I would seriously be weirded out by any person who said “Hamas has some good people” without condemning Hamas in the same sentence. Especially if Hamas was part of a “both sides” with good people, implying moral equivalence. People don’t just say things for no reason – especially not the President. Statements indicate values, and a powerful person’s statement can influence values.

        Trump isn’t a part of modern Blue Tribe culture, and so he doesn’t realize that all decent enlightened people have to admit that Hamas has some good-but-misled people in it, but only a Nazi bigot could believe that a protest against removing a Confederate statue could have the same. So instead of doing the correct thing and pointing out that they are all inhuman vermin who have no redeeming qualities and can only be met with violence, he foolishly applied the cultural norms suitable for someone like Hamas in this situation. Oops!

        Again – what? I was raised in Fairfax County (64% for Hillary). I went to school in Falls Church (75% for Hillary). In none of these “blue” areas did I feel that “all decent enlightened people have to admit that Hamas has some good-but-misled people in it.” Where are you getting this idea from? Do you really think Obama could say the slightest positive thing about Hamas, or antifa, or Communism, and not cause a massive controversy? You note that he was criticized for not condemning terrorists hard enough. But at least he never said anything actively positive about them!

        (Also, Trump has lived most of his life in NYC – 80% for Hillary. He’s deeper in “blue tribe” territory than I am!)

        Ironically, you seem to be saying that I ought to be way more outraged about Trump’s statement than I am (I’ve barely paid attention to it). Because if a President said “Hamas and IDF both have good people,” or “The Chinese Communist Party and anti-CCP protesters both have good people” – without condemning the former – I’d be livid.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        @Scott:

        But on a more fundamental level, I just hate this question and this whole class of questions. Defend this thing Trump did, or else he’s a Nazi! Okay, now defend this thing Trump did, or else he’s a Nazi! Oh yeah, then defend this thing Trump did or else he’s a Nazi!

        Yeah, but I heard Trump once had someone sign a consent form in pencil.

        Definitely a Nazi. Checkmate.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      How does that claim affect your view that Trump is not a racist?

      It doesn’t. Trump is not a racist, he’s a power-focused and hungry person who believes in playing groups against each other for the benefit of himself and his immediate family/friends, and he doesn’t care about the externalities.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        You know, I used to think that, but then why do his family and friends get so little benefit? Which of them benefitted from his Charlottesville remarks? My guess is he’s just dumb and narcissistic – see the “this analysis” link in the main post above.

        • The puzzle with your interpretation of Trump is that he won two contests we all expected him to lose, first the nomination and then the election. It’s possible that he was just lucky and won them in spite of acting on a pattern that made him less likely to win. But I think you have to give significant weight to the alternative hypothesis–that he is a competent demagogue, and most of the things he does that look stupid are tactics with a reasonable chance of getting him political gains.

          Further evidence is that he has engaged in extensive and potentially risky business activities over a long period of time and still has money. It isn’t clear whether he was a successful businessman but he wasn’t a catastrophically unsuccessful one, which is what one would expect on your reading of him, here and in the link in the main post.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            David, whatever algorithm Trump is running doesn’t seem to translate into any legislative wins given full control of the government.

          • Jiro says:

            Who says Trump has full control over the government?

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I think he’s (trained and deliberately) good at getting media attention, and (coincidentally, his natural style just perfectly matches this) good at resonating with people who are angry at the current system.

            Other than that I don’t think he has many special talents beyond the average businessman, and neither of those two talents seems good at governing or navigating crises.

          • Fossegrimen says:

            It’s possible that he was just lucky and won them in spite of acting on a pattern that made him less likely to win.

            I think the only thing anyone needed to win the last election would be to respond to utterances like “basket of deplorables” and “America needs a new people” with “no, America has a fine people, it’s the jerks in Washington who wants you all gone that is the problem”

            Did Trump do this well? no. Would a dead badger still have won if you could make it appear to say the same? probably yes.

          • Wrong Species says:

            And his approval ratings are abysmal. If he loses reelection, then I think we can say he isn’t a competent demagogue.

          • Nick says:

            Did Trump do this well? no. Would a dead badger still have won if you could make it appear to say the same? probably yes.

            Then why didn’t the RNC pick anyone but him? They had a choice of plenty of competent politicians if just anyone could have won.

          • Brad says:

            The unlikely part was winning the nomination, not the general.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            The party Trump ran with controls Congress, recently nominated a conservative Supreme Court judge, and will likely nominate more.

            This is literally the best case scenario one can hope for in the current US system of government.

            Much time and much noise has passed since January. What has Trump to show for it?

          • John Schilling says:

            Then why didn’t the RNC pick anyone but him?

            The RNC picked Jeb Bush. Unlike the DNC, they couldn’t make their choice stick once the voters got involved – and for better or for worse, both parties have committed to allowing the voters to pick their nominees.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            If winning the election was unlikely, why was Hillary largely predicted to win? Before the election, Nate Silver was getting flak for giving Trump what people saw as “too high” a chance of winning, and he still had Trump at an under 50% chance.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:
            The proper way to consider this problem is to first think about the prior. Who was favored l, given all one knew is that the candidates were R and D?

            Considered this way, the Republican had the advantage. Hillary was favored to win largely because she was up against Trump, not because of the fundamentals.

          • Brad says:

            We can debate the details of the exact probabilities at each point, though in some sense that’s not even well defined, but at the end of the day the general election was one Republican and one Democrat. And the President for the prior eight years had been a Democrat. Whoever the Republican nominee was bound to get a great many votes. Maybe not win, but at least be competitive.

            The primaries were a different story. There the default was flaming out and ending up a footnote to the race — like Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, or Chris Christie.

            I’m not saying the general was a slam dunk, but in June 2015 when I Trump announced I think everyone would have put a higher probability on winning the general conditioned on winning the nomination than on winning the nomination in the first place.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Putting money on Trump would have given something like a 3 or 4 to 1 return. What % of people now saying Trump was the more likely winner than Clinton put money on Trump? Even if I didn’t have money on Trump (nor did I have money on Clinton – I figured Clinton was the likely winner, but I only like betting on things I think are 90+% due to loss aversion). In retrospect, I can come up with all sorts of reasons why Trump should have been the favourite, but hindsight is 20/20. Going into it, I figured Nate Silver’s “most likely outcome is narrow Clinton victory” was correct.

          • liskantope says:

            I think he’s (trained and deliberately) good at getting media attention, and (coincidentally, his natural style just perfectly matches this) good at resonating with people who are angry at the current system.

            Other than that I don’t think he has many special talents beyond the average businessman, and neither of those two talents seems good at governing or navigating crises.

            I couldn’t agree more. But this is entirely compatible with him being (perhaps somewhat accidentally) good at resonating with in particular people who are angry at / hate racial minorities. This is troubling. And I believe that is a steelmanned version of a lot of the anti-Trump outrage coming from the SJ left.

          • Lirio says:

            Going into it, I figured Nate Silver’s “most likely outcome is narrow Clinton victory” was correct.

            With the benefit of hindsight, i still believe this to be correct. We didn’t get the most likely outcome, it happens.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            The party Trump ran with controls Congress

            Outgroup homogeneity bias. There is a difference between Trump Republicans and McCain/McConnell/Ryan Republicans. The next step will be primary battles in midterm elections as Trump voters attempt to oust neocon establishment Republicans and replace them with populist/Trump Republicans.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Outgroup homogeneity bias.”

            I am not saying Republicans aren’t diverse. I am saying full Republican control of government leads to the easiest job a president will ever have in our political system. Trump is supposedly a “master persuader” being given an easy (or at least easiest possible) pitch by circumstances.

            Regular old Joes (past presidents) who weren’t master persuaders were able to get stuff done in more difficult political climates. Why can’t Trump? I thought he was a master?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Because persuading masses and dealing with entrenched political interests are two different skill sets? The next persuasion will be, as I said, persuading the masses that the agenda they voted for (his) is not being implemented because some sitting Republicans are not on board with it (despite their campaign rhetoric to the contrary).

            I don’t think it will be difficult to persuade the masses of this, as it’s obviously true.

            When Jesus argued with the Pharisees, he wasn’t trying to change their minds. The Pharisees knew they were lying. Jesus’ rhetoric was designed to expose the Pharisees’ duplicity to the crowds.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Because persuading masses and dealing with entrenched political interests are two different skill sets?”

            Hey now, the claim being thrown around isn’t that Trump is “a master persuader of the masses.” The claim being thrown around is he’s a “master persuader” end of sentence.

            These are different skill sets in persuasion (e.g. getting the world to do what you want), indeed, but persuasion is something Trump is apparently a master of. It wouldn’t be too much to ask of a master of the craft to be good at persuasion in general, right?

            If it would, one might be cornered into thinking Trump was a run-of-the-mill demagogue. “The masses” are indeed easy to persuade for a demagogue.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think that’s basically a “freedom fighter versus terrorist” distinction. Obama was a “gifted orator” but Trump is a “demagogue.”

            I think when Scott Adams was talking about “master persuader” stuff he was talking about the masses, not hardened and motivated political foes. You cannot “persuade” John McCain or Chuck Schumer. You can make a deal with them, or you can replace them.

            I think you’re weak-manning Adam’s “master persuader” argument by claiming he meant that to include motivated political enemies rather than voters. Do you have a link to an Adam’s blog post where he stated he thought Trump could persuade political enemies to join him?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Adams is a cynical demagogue himself. He’s not speaking clearly, he’s using loaded positive valence words like “master persuader” as a kind of lexical token in an effort to elicit a certain reaction.

            It’s a rhetorical trick, and because he is resorting to tricks rather than trying to speak clearly and in good faith, I am going to punish him via running the conventional definition of the word “master” (master of the craft), and how it doesn’t mesh with what Trump actually is.

            Demagogue definition on google first link:

            “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.”

            You can’t have it both ways. If Obama is a swamp creature he’s not a populist.

            Since Trump can’t fly, don’t call him Superman. Since Trump can’t convince Congress out of a wet paper bag in the easiest political environment in a long time, don’t call him a master persuader.

            Btw, not to put too fine a point on it, but the GOP controlled Congress shouldn’t by any reasonable measure be “motivated political enemies” of Trump’s. If they are, that’s sort of on Trump, isn’t it.

            Democrats certainly hate Trump, but who cares about Democrats? Democrats don’t have majorities right now.

          • tscharf says:

            He did get elected President of the United States, there is that.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Master Persuader: “I am president and you are not.” Very persuasive. No wonder he couldn’t get Congress to fall in line.

        • Andrew Cady says:

          Trump won’t be bullied by SJWs, that’s for sure.

          He will not allow himself to be seen being bullied by SJWs.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          You answered your own question below:

          Other than that I don’t think he has many special talents beyond the average businessman, and neither of those two talents seems good at governing or navigating crises.

          He can’t see beyond his worldview, and has done his best to set his children up within his current power edifice. Unfortunately for him, the US Executive branch isn’t that amenable to nepotism. On the backside, whatever ‘true believers’ he can cater to today will end up buying tons of stuff from the business empires his children will inherit tomorrow.

        • userfriendlyyy says:

          Trump is definitely a narcissist. So much so that his first instinct is to defend anyone he believes is on his side. And to the extent he absorbed any of Bannon’s lessons on political strategy it was the right play. Keep the focus on Identity Politics because Democrats will gladly paint themselves into a corner of appearing to only care about 30% of the country. Which is crucial since the other aspects of Bannon’s agenda that might actually help his base (raising taxes on the rich and redoing trade deals so that they help Joe 6 pack instead of Joe CEO) are anathema to most of the GOP and are non starters. The only other thing he might make progress on that his base will love is immigration, of course since immigrants are more of a scapegoat than an actual reason his base has seen no gains in 30 years, that will only get him so far.

          That no gains in 30 years is the real reason Trump won and why there has been an uptick in racism. Ever since Reagan and Thatcher revived the economics that created The Great Depression there has been no gains made by anyone that has to work for a living and inequality has skyrocketed. When that inevitably exploded in 2008 Obama’s response was to evict main street and bail out Wall Street (a decision that Republicans could only dream of enacting without backlash, kinda like NAFTA or Welfare Reform). Which leaves us where we are now. A country that has more people killing themselves with opiates every year than had soldiers die in Vietnam and Iraq combined because they see no way of improving their life while both parties argue over who can fellate the billionaire class the best.

          Oh, and why does the ‘left’ call everyone a racist / sexist? Because there is no solution to that, which makes it safe to talk about without pissing off any billionaire donors. Make no mistake, being on the left is no defence against being labeled a racist or sexist. This is one of my favorite articles because it called out those nominally ‘left’ people who are all too ready to call people a racist…. He killed himself earlier this year. Exiting the Vampire’s Castle.

          • cassander says:

            That no gains in 30 years is the real reason Trump won and why there has been an uptick in racism.

            has there been an uptick? because i’m not seeing it.

            Ever since Reagan and Thatcher revived the economics that created The Great Depression there has been no gains made by anyone that has to work for a living and inequality has skyrocketed.

            Reagan and Thatcher brought back high tariffs, price controls and the gold standard?

            > Because there is no solution to that, which makes it safe to talk about without pissing off any billionaire donors.

            Except that it seems to be alienating a lot of people, and costing the left elections, so it’s not that safe. If safe to the donors is all that matters, why not talk about something that doesn’t alienate the majority of the country

          • Evan Þ says:

            Ever since Reagan and Thatcher revived the economics that created The Great Depression…

            Or, to be correct, the economics that would’ve probably stopped the Great Depression in its tracks if only Hoover had followed them.

            (Paging David Friedman…)

          • userfriendlyyy says:

            has there been an uptick?

            Yes. Take your pick.

            Reagan and Thatcher brought back high tariffs, price controls and the gold standard?

            No, they brought back the Gilded Age with their insistence on Laissez Faire fundamentalism.

            Except that it seems to be alienating a lot of people, and costing the left elections, so it’s not that safe. If safe to the donors is all that matters, why not talk about something that doesn’t alienate the majority of the country

            Good point. They don’t care about winning elections.

          • cassander says:

            @userfriendlyyy

            Yes. Take your pick.

            Ah, yes, the SPLC. They’re totally a reliable source. tell me, how many of those hate crimes turned out to be hoaxes?

            No, they brought back the Gilded Age with their insistence on Laissez Faire fundamentalism.

            In the US, taxes in the 1920s were less than 5% of GDP. After years of rooseveltian largess, they soared to 7.5%. Under reagan, they were never less than 17%, and on average, were exactly the same as they had been from 1950 to 1980. So please, what was it you were saying again about laissez faire fundamentalism?

            Good point. They don’t care about winning elections.

            It must be a fascinating world you live in, where elected politicians don’t care about winning elections.

          • Alsadius says:

            > Ever since Reagan and Thatcher revived the economics that created The Great Depression there has been no gains made by anyone that has to work for a living and inequality has skyrocketed.

            As others have said, you really don’t understand the Depression at all. Trump is bringing back the economics that caused it, arguably(high tariffs), but Reagan and Thatcher really didn’t.

            The one point that hasn’t been brought up yet is that the lack of gains in median income is mostly an American phenomenon, and it’s mostly a statistical artifact based on the US healthcare system – in other countries, the middle class has done pretty well. In the US, they have as well if you look at total compensation instead of total wages. Problem is, all the extra compensation has gone into health insurance, not into cash money. So when an insurance package costs an extra $10k/year for the average worker, and average compensation growth is 20% = $10k/yr, they see nothing extra in their pay. Conversely, a hypothetical lawyer making $250k who sees the same wage growth will have the same $10k hit from healthcare, but it’ll be out of a $50k compensation bump, so they’ll be $40k better off in wages. Both have done equally well on growth rate of compensation, but wage inequality has grown.

          • Tandagore says:

            Wait, since when is lack of median gains only an American phenomenon? The erosion of the middle class, both in gains and size, seems like a pretty prevalent phenomenon in Europe too.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I like this analysis of Trump. It explains him and the historic Marcus Crassus:

          Donald aside, what are the common key motivators for most people who are highly, perhaps exceedingly, ambitious: power, money, and/or fame? Trump appears to have all three of these already, though a case could be made that as an Enneagram 8, Trump likely believes that “you can never have enough of a good thing.” However, I believe there is a 4th motivator, one I have observed in many Enneagram 8s who have not engaged in enough self-development. They want respect, legitimization, recognition for being someone who is worthy of gravitas which they like to presume that they have, though their kind of gravitas is really more like “bigness” and is often a cover for their intrinsic sense of smallness.

          http://theenneagraminbusiness.com/politics/donald-trump-and-the-enneagram-what-makes-the-donald-run/

          • cassander says:

            the theory that Donald Trump’s life is dedicated to proving that Donald Trump is not a loser has a great deal of predictive power.

          • Alsadius says:

            Cassander: The word people use as a go-to insult is often the one they fear most. For a lot of us here it’s some variant of “idiot”. For Trump, it’s “loser”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s the uncharitable take. My more charitable take is that Trump wants immortality. What he wants is his face on Mt. Rushmore, and you only get that if you Make America Great Again and everybody loves you for it.

        • sconn says:

          I dunno, most of the Trump supporters I know LOVE what he said. Because they have been seeing everything in terms of a conflict between left and right, and if the Nazis are standing in for the “right” in this one,* then obviously all the problems were the left’s fault and FINALLY we have a guy who is properly blaming the left for everything.

          *I think this is where they went wrong, but I understand that it looked in many ways like a standard left vs. right protest — they’ve still got Baltimore and Berkley on the brain; if BLM and antifa are on one side, well then the other side must be “the right” and “the good guys.”

          Thus, despite how outraged it made the Blue Tribe (perhaps *because* of how outraged it made the Blue Tribe) I doubt it actually harmed his standing with his supporters. They just want to stick a finger in the eye of the left (and, to a lesser degree, the GOP establishment) and his statements absolutely did that, so they loved it.

          • ghi says:

            they’ve still got Baltimore and Berkley

            While we’re on the subject why haven’t left-wing politicians condemned the alt-left? Does that make them communists and opponents of free speech?

          • Brad says:

            Quit trying to make fetch happen.

          • Thus, despite how outraged it made the Blue Tribe (perhaps *because* of how outraged it made the Blue Tribe) I doubt it actually harmed his standing with his supporters.

            Of course it is because of how outraged it made the Blue Tribe. I think there is very little evidence that Trump supporters are racists. But it is definitely true that “racism” is the thing that Blues are most outraged about, and a love of outraging the Blues is really the only attribute that is pretty universal amongst Trump supporters.

            It is probably true that a large majority of explicit racists and white supremacists support Trump, but I think this is because those supremacists are influenced by the media as everyone else, so they think that they finally have one of their own in the White House. Whereas in reality Trump doesn’t even think enough about ideology to be a racist. He’ll follow anyone’s ideas that will get him ahead. In today’s world, expressing explicit racist ideas will not get him ahead, so he doesn’t do it.

            I use the phrase “explicit racist” to be those that consciously know that they believe one race is better than another, and will act on those beliefs. I think there is maybe 1-5% of the US population that are explicit racists, so no where near enough to elect anyone. I have no citation for this, just gut feel.

            Implicit racists are those who believe subconsciously that one race is better than another, but in most cases won’t even admit it to themselves. I think this is a much larger group, but much harder to gauge — maybe 10-50%? And I also think the Left has as many implicit racists as the Right. I think much of the Left’s clamor to provide more opportunities for Blacks is because they don’t believe they have the smarts or the inner fortitude to do it on their own. Well, even I believe that Blacks on average have lower smarts than Whites, because that’s what statistics tell us, but I admit that I believe it. And I don’t think it makes Whites better people.

    • Loquat says:

      The version I read of his remarks, it seemed like he had the mistaken impression that the pro-statue side was bigger/broader than it actually was – maybe he heard the name “Unite the Right” and thought it was actually accurate? So he seemed to me to be thinking it was more like the crowd at a typical Trump rally, just with a higher percentage of baddies making the rest look bad. If that was his thinking, it’s obviously totally wrong, but not racist.

      • Evan Þ says:

        That sounds rather plausible to me in that, for the first day or so after the riot, I thought the exact same thing.

      • rlms says:

        Yes, that’s the most plausible explanation I can see. The pro-statue side in general definitely doesn’t contain many baddies, it just happens that this rally here did. Trump not checking the details and making a statement based on a reasonable but incorrect assumption wouldn’t exactly be out of character.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Pax Dickinson was there, and while he might not be a really fine person he’s at least not a neo-Nazi or a white supremacist, to my knowledge. I expect other non-neo-Nazi non-WS groups were there; it is no surprise they were not reported on. On the counter-protestor side, you had the usual zoo of protest groups, most of which were not Antifa. So I’d say for a very low bar of “fine” (meaning not actual neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or Antifa), there were fine people on both sides. I don’t accept guilt-by-association claims because _everyone_ in the culture war is associated with unsavory people; if you hold the non-Nazis to be Nazi-equivalent for being there with the Nazis, then you must hold the women’s rights marchers (one of the zoo) to be Antifa-equivalent.

      The press clearly wanted to force Trump to agree that the Unite the Right marchers were solely responsible for everything which happened in Charlottesville because they were Bad People (and therefore justifying the violence of the counterprotesters), and Trump was having none of it. That has seriously made me consider voting for him for re-election.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I’m done defending Pax Dickinson (I’m not sure I ever did, but before this I probably would have if asked).

        I realize this might seem to conflict with what I said about Trump above, but the key thing about Trump is he’s never openly supported these people, and he’s always eventually condemned them (even if half-heartedly) when asked. Actually showing up to their rallies seems like a whole different level. The prior against anyone being a white nationalist is super-low, but not so low that when somebody says “Hey, which way is the white nationalist rally where they’re protesting in favor of white nationalism?” you can just ignore it because of the low priors.

        Actually, I’ll amend that. If Pax says so, I’m happy to believe that he’s not a white nationalist in some principled believing-in-white-nationalism way. But he clearly believes in something that gets furthered by attending a rally put on by David Duke and Richard Spencer, and I’m not sure what that could possibly be that isn’t indefensible.

        • keranih says:

          But he clearly believes in something that gets furthered by attending a rally put on by David Duke and Richard Spencer, and I’m not sure what that could possibly be that isn’t indefensible.

          I dunno Pax from Adam, and what I know of Duke and Spencer is that they’re bigoted people with notions that I don’t agree with who are afraid of demons that I can’t see, and who want a vision for the country that I don’t hold with.

          But at this point, I’m really tempted to show up to a rally to link arms and march – firstly on the grounds that ALL AMERICANS HAVE THE RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH AND PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY and secondly just to piss off the sort of rabid antifa and SJWs who already hate me *and* are trying to burn the Constitution to the ground.

          You might not find either of those defensible, but hey. It’s a free country, and I’m not gonna tell you what to say.

          • IvanFyodorovich says:

            Keranih, I feel pretty safe in a country where only 500 people show up to a well-publicized rally where they shout “Jews will not replace us”. I would feel a little less safe if there were 5,000 and still less so at 50,000. Not because the march itself hurts me, but it’s a barometer for what proportion of the population secretly wants me expelled or in an oven. I support these guys’ right to march, but adding to their numbers for idiosyncratic reasons is misguided and helps scare people who are neither SJWs nor antifa.

          • Evan Þ says:

            On the other hand, when a group with a whole lot of support in the media and Internet starts calling anyone who supports immigration limits a Nazi with one hand, and violently fighting Nazis with the other… I’m really sorry for you, Ivan, because I totally sympathize with your fears. But there’s a large part of me that starts looking around for barometers of what proportion of the population wants me silenced and punched.

          • IvanFyodorovich says:

            Fair enough Evan, but do you think that going to a pro-ogre rally with a bunch of ogres will help make people realize you are not an ogre? There are a huge number of people who oppose both immigration and white supremacy (judging from the fact that Trump won the election while Spencer can’t draw a significant crowd). Why associate your cause with a tiny, insanely unpopular group?

          • keranih says:

            Ivan, if you and I support their right to march, and then when they do march, and are beaten bloody – not for anything they’ve done, just for speaking – and you and I sigh, and say, isn’t that a shame

            …well, free speech is that much less free, and the people with bloody clubs are going to start asking each other, so, who else is oppressing by speaking?

            If it comes to that fight, I’d rather be already warmed up. And I don’t want them to refrain from beating me up because I’ve convinced them of my non-orgeness, but because nobody is an orge, you freaking morons.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          i believe when he was asked a question similar to “are you a white supremacist” he pretty much said “no, I want to throw out of helicopters more than just minorities”

          so just ultra far-right sounds like the right label. I think identity politics really gets in the way of describing this; he wants to murder a lot of people to advance his political agenda, but probably only because of their politics and not their race. Do whatever you want with that.

        • gemmaem says:

          So, if I’m getting this right, you won’t defend people who were at the rally (Pax Dickinson), but you will defend people who defend people at the rally (Donald Trump).

          Have I got that right?

      • MereComments says:

        Rather than start a new thread about the “fine people” comment, I’ll just pivot off Nybbler’s, because I think it’s partially right.

        There were many groups who showed up for Unite the Right. One of the groups to show up were the Oath Keepers, a militia that’s made up of ex-law enforcement and ex-military, and who have been around since the Tea Party, and the “fake birth certificate” days of the Obama administration. They’re right-wing, but not even remotely white nationalist or neo-nazi (there was an an incident that enraged the alt-right at a statue protest in Houston, because the Oath Keepers, including Latino Oath Keepers, kicked an alt-righter out of the protest). It’s been surreal to see this memory-holed by almost all media and commentary, but based on everything I know about Trump, he was most likely talking about these ex-law enforcement, ex-military guys that he saw on Fox News when he made his “fine people” remark, not the people walking around with literal Nazi flags.

        Be against groups like the Oath Keepers all you want. Ex-cops and military carrying around rifles, and ominously articulating since 2008 that they swore an oath to the Constitution, not the POTUS, is somewhat unnerving (though should be perfectly legal!). But you are strawmanning Trump’s comments when he says there were “many fine people” there, and you immediately find the worst of the worst and assume he was defending literal Nazis, as opposed to the groups that he was probably vaguely familiar with, the ones who have been featured on cable news for years.

        • Evan Þ says:

          TIL the Oath Keepers were only founded in 2009.

          For what it’s worth, though, I was a teenager at the time, and my parents were good friends with someone involved in the John Birch Society. So, I can say with confidence that the tradition the Oath Keepers draw from was already live and active long before then, opposing President Bush’s alleged plans to overthrow the Constitution and surrender our sovereignty to an oligarchic one-world government.

        • ManyCookies says:

          If that’s true, Trump really really should have clarified that at some point following the first tweet. He doesn’t even need to be deferential, he could be like “I said ‘some’ fine people, like the patriotic Oathkeepers blah blah blah. OBVIOUSLY the Nazis weren’t included in that ‘some’, good god these liberals are so thirsty for scandal am I right?”.

          • MereComments says:

            That’s what you, or I, or anyone in this thread would have done, sure. But we’re not Trump.

            And you could argue that it’s strategically unsound and rhetorically negligent. But he’s gotten pretty far doing things that I think are strategically unsound and rhetorically negligent (not even getting into the ethics of it). In his universe this might seem so obvious that it doesn’t even require a clarification.

          • The Nybbler says:

            He DID.

            Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

            You know what? It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.

            I rather doubt his expressing support explicitly for the Oathkeepers (if that’s indeed who he meant) would have played well at all.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @The Nybbler

            Ah so he did. Apologies, I stopped following closely after the first 24 hours for sanity reasons and this was three days later. Though he still should have clarified a wee bit more promptly (was there not a press conference before Tuesday?), but that’s more of a strategic/political concern.

    • Zorgon says:

      One thing that struck me is that I am unable to find any references in the mainstream media to antifa violence at Charlottesville until after Trump’s statement. The only references within those two days seem to be from very right-leaning sources and a couple of blogs and people posting on Medium and Reason and so on.

      The references that come after Trump’s statement are mostly obfuscatory and dismissive in nature, but before then antifa violence was simply memory-holed; the presented picture was that of a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters suddenly assailed by Nazi ram-raiders. While Trump may not have been right about the “fine people on both sides” part, he was certainly right that there was significant violence employed by both sides, and for recognising that at least he deserves more credit than the mainstream media.

      • Montfort says:

        Cable news replayed a seemingly endless loop of the early violence at Emancipation Park, which police in riot gear had surrounded on three sides, although they seemed to watch as groups beat each other with sticks and bludgeoned one another with shields. Many on both sides came dressed for battle, with helmets and chemical irritants.

        Washington Post, August 12, 2017

        • Zorgon says:

          Appreciated.

          It’s worth noting I’m in the UK; the only footage shown here was of ominous tiki-torch wielding body armoured Nazis looming over poor helpless minorities.

        • Andrew Cady says:

          Also from August 12, here is an editorial on fair.org complaining about all of the media outlets that talked about violence on both sides:

          http://fair.org/home/for-media-driving-into-a-crowd-of-protesters-is-a-clash/

          The Washington Post, Boston Globe, AOL News, The Hill, BBC and Sky News UK all chose to frame the ramming of a car into anti-fascist protesters as “clashes.”

          Lots of news articles cited within.

    • ghi says:

      So basically your argument comes down to anyone who attends a rally that someone brings a swastika to can’t possibly be a “fine person”, but going to a rally with communist flags is perfectly reasonable?

        • ghi says:

          In that case let’s hear it, because that’s what all the arguments I’ve heard boil down to.

          • rlms says:

            The Unite The Right rally’s organisers publicised David Duke’s endorsement of them.

          • ghi says:

            So? Alt-leftists are perfectly willing to publicize endorsements by open communists, and no one seems to care.

          • rlms says:

            The counterprotest wasn’t organised by “alt-leftists”. Additionally, the open communists you talk about are almost certainly more links removed from murderers than David Duke.

          • CatCube says:

            But our supporters of a vicious totalitarian movement with a history of killing millions are slightly better than your supporters of vicious totalitarianism!

          • rlms says:

            @CatCube
            Your comment is bad and irrelevant to my main point, and I now think less of you because of it.

          • Additionally, the open communists you talk about are almost certainly more links removed from murderers than David Duke.

            What does “more links removed from” mean here?

            Bernie Sanders had a deal with Hugo Chavez to get discounted oil for people in Vermont. Is that a link? If you are willing to count Hugo Chavez as a murderer, does that mean that anyone who campaigned for Sanders is two links from a murderer?

          • CatCube says:

            and I now think less of you because of it.

            If you try to quibble about how there might be fewer links with murderous ideology represented by a hammer and sickle, I’ll take this as a point of pride.

            So Vasily Blokhin was sent to Poland in 1940. He carried a suitcase full of pistols with him, because he had so many murders to perform he expected to wear them out. If you carry a hammer and sickle around, you own this.

            This is no different from the fact that if you carry a swastika around, you own this. You don’t get to talk about how you don’t really stand for murdering the Jews, you just want some other nationalist-type stuff; you know Goddamn well what the symbol you carry around means.

            If somebody is carrying around a hammer and sickle flag, they’re a monster. Are they as much monsters as the dudes marching around in Charlottesville with swastikas? I’ll grant that they aren’t if it makes you happy. But they’re evil enough. “Nazi” vs. “Communist” isn’t even like “Do you want to be stabbed to death with an 8-inch knife or beaten to death with a 2-inch diameter pipe?” It’s more like, “Do you want to be beaten to death with a Schedule 40 or Schedule 80 2-inch diameter pipe?”

            I do not subscribe to the nonsense that plenty of alt-righters are trying to push of “no enemies to the right.” I have plenty of enemies to my right, where if they were to “win” I would consider it an unmitigated loss. But I am getting really, really, fucking tired of people marching around with communist symbols, and a whole mess of people will just ruffle their hair and say, “Ah, look at you, you lil’ scamp!”

          • rlms says:

            @David Friedman
            As a member of the Klu Klux Klan in 1967, it seems likely that David Duke had friends, or friends of friends, or maybe friends of friends of friends who bombed black churches, murdered civil rights activists etc. I don’t believe that many of the people who wave hammer and sickle flags at present day rallies have equivalent connections to any of Stalin’s goons.

            @CatCube
            Symbols mean what people think they mean. Does waving a crucifix mean you endorse Roman torture-executions? More pertinently, does waving the Confederate flag mean you own slavery? Since you want to argue by naming individual atrocities, does waving the American flag mean you own My Lai?

          • bbartlog says:

            equivalent connections to any of Stalin’s goons.

            No, they would be connected to the Weathermen or SDS or perhaps the RAM or BPP instead. You are deliberately choosing a proximate (in time and space) group for David Duke and a less proximate one for today’s Communist sympathizers despite the fact that there were actually plenty of marginal and nominally Communist organizations around in 1967.

          • As a member of the Klu Klux Klan in 1967, it seems likely that David Duke had friends, or friends of friends, or maybe friends of friends of friends who bombed black churches, murdered civil rights activists etc.

            Certainly possible.

            “In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, at a gathering in the Hyde Park home of former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.”

          • rlms says:

            @bbartlog, @DavidFriedman
            Firstly, I said “murderers”, not “terrorists”. Some ex-Weathermen took part in an armed robbery that killed 3 people, but apart from that I don’t think they actually managed any murders. They aren’t comparable to the KKK on that basis. Secondly, we aren’t comparing David Duke to Bill Ayers or even Alice Palmer/Barack Obama. We are comparing David Duke, who led the KKK, with random people waving hammer and sickle flags at protests, who might not even have been alive when the Weathermen were active, and even if they were probably had no connection with them and certainly didn’t lead them.

          • Brad says:

            I think a good way to frame the factual dispute is this: was the average M number of the protesters or counter-protesters lower? Where a person’s M number is defined similarly to Erdős substituting any murderer for Erdős and friendship for co-authorship.

            I suspect it was the protesters, but then that’s a convenient suspicion for me.

          • @rlms:

            You object to people attending an event endorsed by Duke because he once had friends some of whom had probably committed murder. I’m not sure the “probably” is fair–most KKK members didn’t commit murders, although some did.

            Obama prominently participated in an event hosted by people who certainly had friends who had committed murders. Do you reach a similarly negative conclusion about him?

          • @rlms:

            Why not?

            Your view is that someone attending a rally endorsed by someone who may have had friends who were right wing murderers fifty years ago demonstrates by doing so that he is a bad person (lots of potential subtlety omitted). I point out that Obama was a prominent part of an event hosted by two people who certainly had friends who were left wing murderers much less than fifty years before the event.

            You decline to draw a similar conclusion.

    • J Mann says:

      I think intellectually, Trump’s statement is almost certainly true, assuming that you don’t think that merely disagreeing with the movement to destroy statues disqualifies someone from being a fine person. This is particularly true if Trump meant both sides to include everyone in the country who is for or against statue destruction, but it’s probably also true if he just meant people at the rally.

      It seems like there’s a general dynamic that if you hold a lefty rally and, say, some communist revolutionary groups or eliminate Israel by force group show up or a bunch of people advertise for days that they’re coming specifically to beat up right wingers, then it’s still important to point out that those radical elements don’t represent the vast majority of marchers, but if you hold a rally and one guy shows up with a swastika, then everybody at the rally is a Nazi unless they either beat up that guy or immediately leave. (Or sometimes even if they do).

      http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-berkeley-protests-20170827-story.html

      https://www.cbsnews.com/news/portland-train-stabbing-suspect-jeremy-christian-free-speech-organizer-joey-gibson/

      • MrApophenia says:

        This might be more persuasive if the rally in question hasn’t been arranged by white supremacists for the specific purpose of uniting various right wing factions with neo-Nazis and the KKK.

        This wasn’t some normal, perfectly upstanding hey-we-like-the-Confederacy-but-we’re-totally-not-racist-guys-we-swear rally. This was a neo-Nazi/alt-right mixer.

        • J Mann says:

          I think that’s probably fair. The rally organizers certainly don’t seem to have done anything to try to prevent the KKK and Nazis from joining in, so IMHO it’s fair to lump them together barring some clear evidence to the contrary.

          If so, I guess the best you can say for Trump’s position is that at best, it’s the mirror of the normal protest where some bad people show up and are permitted to stay; it’s a protest by bad people where at most some normal people showed up to protest the statute removal.

          I am sympathetic to Scott’s point upthread, though. If you told me that there were some fine people in a protest in support of Hezbollah or Sendero Luminoso, I’d buy it. I’d wonder how many and how clueless, but so be it.

          • rlms says:

            “The rally organizers certainly don’t seem to have done anything to try to prevent the KKK and Nazis from joining in”
            Not only that, but if you look at the rally twitter account you can see they positively welcomed it. Nevertheless, while I don’t think Trump’s comment is defensible, I don’t think it indicates support for Nazis either. The most plausible explanation (supported by his comments that he wasn’t saying Nazis and the KKK were fine people, but rather the alleged other people at rally) is that he wrongly, but reasonably, assumed the rally was representative of all the people who opposed the statue removal and therefore didn’t contain many Nazis (unobjectionable people with emotional attachment to Confederate icons heavily outnumber white supremacists).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think that’s probably fair. The rally organizers certainly don’t seem to have done anything to try to prevent the KKK and Nazis from joining in, so IMHO it’s fair to lump them together barring some clear evidence to the contrary.

            Doesn’t that basically kill the entire point of Spencer’s rebrand of White Nationalism as “alt-right?” I thought the entire point was to disassociate pro-white advocacy from anti-other (KKK, Nazi) advocacy. Nobody pays any attention to him or the alt-right for about a decade, he finally gets some media attention, and first big rally (and for a cause that’s object-level popular…the vast majority of Americans do not want Confederate statues taken down) and he teams up with KKK and Nazis.

            Does this not kill the alt-right as a brand distinct from KKK and Nazis?

          • J Mann says:

            @Conrad

            Yes, it kind of does, and I’m honestly surprised that the organizers didn’t institute a “no swastikas” rule.

            I’m also astonished that the alt-right race whiners don’t try to push some kind of “we’re for white equality, not white supremacy”* line, then list some of the privileges they think minorities have that they don’t, rather than going full throttle about white genocide. Maybe they’re worried that if they were reasonable, noone would come at all.

            * PS: I’m not for that, I’m just surprised that the alt-right aren’t.

          • random832 says:

            Yes, it kind of does, and I’m honestly surprised that the organizers didn’t institute a “no swastikas” rule.

            Maybe they made a bet (which they lost) that nobody would be dumb enough to bring them and that they didn’t want the optics on having to say it explicitly since they (wrongly) thought it wouldn’t be a problem.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @random832:
            That’s like inviting staunch leftist/communists and expecting them to leave the Che Guevara shirts at home.

            If you think the people who frequent The Daily Stormer are going to leave the Nazi imagery behind without a coordinated push to prevent them from bringing it…

        • engleberg says:

          @This wasn’t some normal, perfectly upstanding we like the Confederacy but we’re totally not racist-

          Heinlein said KKK stuff was often funded by D and Communist stuff was often funded by R. I don’t think antifa is funded by R, though I’d look twice at any mysterious black bloc stuff that provokes a perfectly timed police response with every police reporter chanting exactly the same take on the story. Unite the Right was founded by two guys who were D party workers until less than six months ago. It’s declared purpose is to tell everyone the right and neo-Nazi’s are united. D party media has exactly the same take on the story- ‘Trump doesn’t denounce Nazis’.

          It’s still a step up from D party hacks inciting the murder of R party hacks like it’s a D party hack’s job. Or D party sending guys with clubs to beat R party convention attendees. Or maintaining a semi-legal helot class of tens of millions to lower American wages.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Heinlein said KKK stuff was often funded by D and Communist stuff was often funded by R.”

            Where did he say that?

          • engleberg says:

            Hmm. Thought Expanded Universe, skimmed it, did not find it. Take Back Your Government? Grumbles From the Grave? Tramp Royal? Or I missed it, or I’m wrong.

            Wrongly invoking the name of the mighty dead. Not wrong to think Neo Nazi, Klan, Communist, Antifa are at the opposite pole from a transparent political marketplace in the Lady’s Home Journal, and open to cash from mainstream politicos making their mainstream enemies look bad.

    • rlms says:

      Another perspective: Trump’s claim was probably true. But “some (literal, 1930s) Nazis are fine people” is also probably true.

    • tscharf says:

      Obviously Trump meant the Nazi’s and KKK are fine people, because that is how one reasonably gains more support as a President. Especially right after one of their members runs overs a bunch of people and kills one of them. That’s the most reasonable way to interpret that comment.

      Some crazy people think he might have been referring to the debate over statues, but given Trump’s prior eloquence and very carefully spoken lawyerly demeanor pretty much rules that out. I can’t recall Trump ever commenting on something before he fully understood the facts.

      Unfortunately he wasn’t given a chance to clarify what he meant or we would be able to better settle this dispute. If he had been given this opportunity then the naysayers wouldn’t be able to claim he really meant Nazi’s are fine people because his words would directly refute this.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “Unfortunately he wasn’t given a chance to clarify what he meant or we would be able to better settle this dispute.”

        Wasn’t given a chance? He can tweet anything he wants to say.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m pretty sure that’s sarcasm; Trump did indeed clarify what he said. When he said it, no less. The Narrative is far more important than the actual words spoken, however.

        • tscharf says:

          “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,”

          “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America and as I have said many times before, no matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, we are all made by the same almighty God,”

  3. Clegg says:

    How far does the crying wolf (about Trump and his supporters’ alleged racism) go? Is it possible that Trump, and economic nationalism, could be less racist than previous GOP presidents and their platforms?

    According to a common narrative, Nixon and Republicans since won the votes of Southern segregationists and used their support to push a pro-business agenda that didn’t benefit these voters. If economic nationalism actually helps a lot of the “Angry White Men” who elected Trump, Trump doesn’t need to rely on racism to hold their support.

    • cassander says:

      According to a common narrative, Nixon and Republicans since won the votes of Southern segregationists and used their support to push a pro-business agenda that didn’t benefit these voters.

      This narrative is demonstrably false. As I have discussed before, the south didn’t go republican in the 70s. The southern congressional delegation was almost entirely democratic until the 90s. While it’s true that republican presidents won in the south in this period, that’s because they won everywhere, winning an average of more than 40 states per election from 68 to 88. Despite this, the share of southerners voting for republican presidents was consistently lower than of the rest of the country.

      As for economic issues, if you are a white guy with no college degree, what economic benefits do the democrats offer you? Not the subsidies to higher education, you didn’t go, and if you do try, you or your kids will be actively discriminated against in applying. Not the means tested welfare state, you, as a rule, make too much money to qualify for most of it, and if you don’t you probably will soon. Not regulation, you’re far more likely than any other demographic to work in the sort of brown industries the democrats openly brag about trying to regulate out of existence. Even if you don’t work in those industries, you probably know people who do. The democrats do want to tax you to pay for those things though, and to lecture you about how privileged you are, when not calling you a bunch of racist hicks.

      White men without a college degree are, far and way, the most republican demographic in the country. That doesn’t happen because of trickery, it’s because the democrats offer this group almost nothing besides condescension.

      • Clegg says:

        You clearly know more than I do about southern electoral politics, so maybe I used a bad example. I am thinking specifically of the Lee Atwater tape, where he says that “cutting taxes” in 1980 had the same political meaning that the n-word did in 1954 to some voters. And Reagan’s tax cuts did not benefit white men without college degrees as much as they benefited higher earners.

        The interesting thing to me is that Trump/Bannon economic nationalism seems to offer more to these non-college-educated white men than the economic policies of GWB and Paul Ryan, or anything else coming out of the establishment GOP, let alone the Democrats.

        • cassander says:

          I replied more generally further down, but this:

          >And Reagan’s tax cuts did not benefit white men without college degrees as much as they benefited higher earners.

          Is specific and not quite right. In 1979, the top 1/5 made 45% of income and paid 55% of taxes. Today they make 50% of income and pay 69% of taxes. So taxes haven’t gotten less progressive, but a little more. As for the total amount of taxes, tax revenues averaged a little under 18% of GDP from 1950 to 80. From 81-2011, they averaged…..just a little under 18% of GDP.

          the actual effect of the reagan “tax cuts” are exaggerated by almost everyone. They shaved a maximum of about 1% off the total tax bill, and at least that much was added back by bush II and clinton. They did not make the code radically less progressive, but were fairly neutral in that regard, because while they lowered rates they also eliminated deductions, and deductions disproportionately benefit those paying higher rates.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            We’ve been through this before Cassander.

            The degree to which a tax system is progressive is the degree to which higher earners pay higher average rates.

            In the presence of changes in the distribution of income, average rates do not necessarily track the percentage of income paid by the top x% of the population. You are wilfully using a metric which doesn’t measure the thing you say you are measuring.

          • Cliff says:

            pdbarnsley,

            Obviously if a group is paying a higher share of taxes than its share of the income, it MUST be paying a higher average rate than the rest of the population.

      • This narrative is demonstrably false. As I have discussed before, the south didn’t go republican in the 70s. The southern congressional delegation was almost entirely democratic until the 90s. While it’s true that republican presidents won in the south in this period, that’s because they won everywhere, winning an average of more than 40 states per election from 68 to 88. Despite this, the share of southerners voting for republican presidents was consistently lower than of the rest of the country.

        I’m interested in reading more about this. Can you point to places where you discussed this more at length and/or to articles which defend that view? I’ve always been suspicious of this narrative, because I also noticed that the shift of the South toward the GOP occurred pretty late, but I’d like to read more.

        For what it’s worth, I largely agree with the rest of what you say, but that’s another topic.

        • Alsadius says:

          A quick look through Wikipedia articles on the elections says that of the 11 ex-Confederate states in 6 elections(so 66 total decisions), Republicans won 49, Democrats 12, and George Wallace(a former Democrat running as a third party anti-civil-rights candidate) 5. That’s 74% to Republicans. Of the 300 total state decisions in those same 6 elections, Republicans won 241, or 80%. Now, a fair bit of that is probably regionalism – Carter won his native Georgia in 1980 despite getting thumped nationally, for example, and he did run up the score down south in 1976 in part for the same reason.

          Congressional data is harder to pull good stats from, but for example, this is what Texas looked like in the 70s – almost solid blue. It doesn’t turn majority-red until the 2004 election, despite having a Texan Republican in the White House at the time, and a House that had been majority-red for a decade.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Isn’t that exactly what you would expect from executing a successful regional political strategy?

          • Alsadius says:

            soru, I’m not following your argument here – can you elaborate?

          • 1soru1 says:

            The Republican position of ‘you are not racist, you simply have a preference for lower taxes’ is obviously vastly more attractive to its target audience than the alternatives. But most people don’t change their vote per-election, they pick it once in a lifetime and stick with it. The few exceptions cause most of the uncertainty in elections, and so get all the attention.

            But to take a state from being definitely blue into the zone of uncertainty and then beyond it to definitely red, you can’t just run a charismatic, competent and scandal-free candidate. You need to capture new core voters who will reliably turn out for every subsequent election, because they agree with your parties fundamental principles. And then you still need to wait for the opposing base to die off. This takes generational timescales, so a change made in the 60s will bear fruit in the 90s at the earliest.

          • cassander says:

            @1soru1

            You need to capture new core voters who will reliably turn out for every subsequent election, because they agree with your parties fundamental principles. And then you still need to wait for the opposing base to die off. This takes generational timescales, so a change made in the 60s will bear fruit in the 90s at the earliest

            This is a plausible argument for some sort of southern strategy, but not “the southern strategy.” “The southern strategy” is defined as winning over those old voters with coded racist rhetoric in the 70s, not adopting new arguments that appealed to a new generation of southern voters that arose in the 90s. It also doesn’t explain why. if this rhetoric was tailored for southerners, it was even more efficacious in the non-southern parts of the country, and led to the largest string of presidential electoral victories in history. If the rhetoric works everywhere, how can you call it a southern strategy?

          • 1soru1 says:

            If the rhetoric works everywhere, how can you call it a southern strategy?

            ‘you are not racist, you simply have a preference for lower taxes’ has two constituencies:

            1. those who take it as coded racist rhetoric

            2. those who are not racist and want lower taxes.

            Group 2 can be larger than group 1 without group 1 being insignificant.

            It’s worth noting that the US has the lowest overall taxes of any rich democracy. So politically, the case against taxation has been more politically successful than elsewhere. You’d expect any argument over taxes to settle at an equilibrium where equal numbers would be hurt as helped by a change in either direction, and that that point would be the same for similar economies. A deviation from that requires an explanation.

            The Southern Strategy is one such; I have not not heard of a better alternative.

          • cassander says:

            @1soru1 says:

            1. those who take it as coded racist rhetoric

            2. those who are not racist and want lower taxes.

            Group 2 can be larger than group 1 without group 1 being insignificant.

            By this logic, “There should be affirmative action for african americans” has 2 constituencies, those who take it as coded racist rhetoric, and those that are not racist and want to help a historically disadvantaged community.

            Group 2 can be larger than group 1 without group 1 being insignificant, do you claim that racism is a significant motivator of support for AA?

            It’s worth noting that the US has the lowest overall taxes of any rich democracy.

            when you take into account tax expenditures, which the US relies on far more heavily than any other rich democracy, and state and local spending, the US is on the low end, but not the lowest. Ireland, switzerland, and japan are all lower, in addition to some smaller countries.

            You’d expect any argument over taxes to settle at an equilibrium where equal numbers would be hurt as helped by a change in either direction, and that that point would be the same for similar economies. A deviation from that requires an explanation.

            Well, there isn’t really much of a deviation, but even if there were, this argument only holds if you assume people everywhere are identical, with no variance in culture, political tradition, political structure, or personality that might lead to different outcomes.

            The Southern Strategy is one such; I have not not heard of a better alternative.

            A tradition of limited government and the culture that goes with it. A constitution that establishes a complicated system of checks and balances that makes sweeping legislation more difficult than in other countries. Lower social trust brought about by a very large and culturally diverse country.

            There are 3 better alternatives. And I know they’re better because, unlike the largely mythical southern strategy, they aren’t largely mythical.

          • 1soru1 says:

            By this logic, “There should be affirmative action for african americans” has 2 constituencies, those who take it as coded racist rhetoric, and those that are not racist and want to help a historically disadvantaged community.

            Yes, this is broadly accurate. After all, the Democrats are an electorally-competitive party.

            Ireland, switzerland, and japan are all lower

            Per wikipedia, Ireland has 30% of GDP as taxes, Switzerland 29%, Japan 28%, the US 26%, so I don’t know what set of figures you are using.

            You could also note that within the lower tax, the US has a higher percentage of GDP spent on defence than any other democracy. Which is compatible with the theory that the anti-tax argument becomes politically weaker when applied in a situation where it cannot be supported by racial resentment.

            A tradition of limited government and the culture that goes with it. A constitution that establishes a complicated system of checks and balances that makes sweeping legislation more difficult than in other countries.

            Lower efficiency leading to lower costs is hardly conventional economics.

            Lower social trust brought about by a very large and culturally diverse country.

            How is that not simply restating the essence of the southern strategy using slightly different language?

            And I know they’re better because, unlike the largely mythical southern strategy, they aren’t largely mythical.

            It seems to me that you are using the fact that you believe a thing as evidence of the fact that it is true. That seems unwise.

          • cassander says:

            @1soru1 says:

            Per wikipedia, Ireland has 30% of GDP as taxes, Switzerland 29%, Japan 28%, the US 26%, so I don’t know what set of figures you are using.

            I staretd from there, then added in this. But I grant you, I was looking at spending, not taxation, on the theory that the bills eventually have to be paid.

            Which is compatible with the theory that the anti-tax argument becomes politically weaker when applied in a situation where it cannot be supported by racial resentment.

            it’s also compatible with the theory that aliens drip chemicals that cause anti-tax feelings into the American water supply in order to keep our government cash strapped and thus unable to fund a space program capable of returning to the moon.

            Lower efficiency leading to lower costs is hardly conventional economics.

            no, but it’s very basic political science.

            How is that not simply restating the essence of the southern strategy using slightly different language?

            I wasn’t speaking specifically of racial diversity, just the sheer size and heterogeneity of the US. But frankly, you can leave the heterogeneity out of the question entirely. Sheer size matters, government spending is negtively correlated with country size, and the US is far larger than any other developed democracy.

          • Lower efficiency leading to lower costs is hardly conventional economics.

            It isn’t inconsistent with conventional economics.

            Lower efficiency means that the cost of government services is higher. When the price of something goes up, people consume less of it. If demand is elastic, as it could be, quantity goes down by more than price goes up, so total expenditure, which in this context is total cost of government, goes down.

            All of that is complicated by the fact that we aren’t talking about consumption decisions by an individual but the outcome of the political market.

          • 1soru1 says:

            The link to OECD report covers not expenditure but ‘tax expenditure’, i.e.

            In all OECD member countries, governments collect revenues through taxes and redistribute this public money, often by obligatory spending on social programmes such as education or health care. Their tax systems usually include “tax expenditures” – provisions that allow certain groups of people, such as small businessmen, retired people or working mothers, or those who have undertaken certain activities, such as charitable donations, to pay less in taxes.

            And it doesn’t even mention Ireland or Switzerland. So its not exactly obvious how you can get from that to your conclusion.

          • 1soru1 says:

            When the price of something goes up, people consume less of it.

            You mean like ‘sorry officer, I have considered your offer of arrest, but having looked at the figures, I am afraid I am going to have to take my custom elsewhere’?

            In any case, the existence of unresolved efficiency issues suggests that the pure low tax lobby lacks the political support to resolve them. And one explanation for that, when it has been so successful elsewhere, is that it when it tries to do so, it misses the support of the racial animus faction.

          • cassander says:

            @1soru1 says:

            And one explanation for that, when it has been so successful elsewhere, is that it when it tries to do so, it misses the support of the racial animus faction.

            Again, this is true only in the sense that the theory of the aliens poisoning the water is true.

          • When the price of something goes up, people consume less of it.

            You mean like ‘sorry officer, I have considered your offer of arrest, but having looked at the figures, I am afraid I am going to have to take my custom elsewhere’?

            I mean like “It would be nice to have a well functioning and not too expensive government health care system like the British do [I don’t know if this is true, but obviously many people believe it is], but if we had government health care it would be an expensive mess so lets keep it private.”

          • 1soru1 says:

            if we had government health care it would be an expensive mess

            One day, the two thoughts ‘electing politicians like Trump’ and ‘expensive mess’ will interact, and american politics will be something other than what it is.

            That day may not be this day. It may well not be this decade. But only the Doom of all Nations could delay the time of its arrival.

          • cassander says:

            @1soru1 says:

            One day, the two thoughts ‘electing politicians like Trump’ and ‘expensive mess’ will interact, and american politics will be something other than what it is.

            yes, if only we could elect smart technocrats like barack obama who pass masterfully crafted legislation like the affordable care act.

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        you, as a rule, make too much money to qualify for most of it, and if you don’t you probably will soon

        I think the first half is more effectively accomplished by mentally redefining anything you do receive as “not welfare”, but it’s the back half that’s key – “one day, I’ll be well off too, so why would I want to hurt my future self?”. Which requires a certain amount of ignorance about recent growth in median wages.

        you’re far more likely than any other demographic to work in the sort of brown industries the democrats openly brag about trying to regulate out of existence

        Being more likely than other demographics to work in a coal mine would explain higher relative support, but not really higher absolute levels of support. That would require that these groups are more likely to work in brown industries than other industries, not more likely than other people. That’s only true for a super narrow definition of “these groups”.

        You’ve also tried “they know people in these industries” in the past, and that’s true, but they likely know a lot of people, including some people on food stamps. It doesn’t really explain why “coal miner” is such a political touchstone – I think it’s symbolic rather than materialistic, which I guess is a metonym for the whole argument about whether Trump supporters neglect their material interests.

        • but it’s the back half that’s key – “one day, I’ll be well off too, so why would I want to hurt my future self?”. Which requires a certain amount of ignorance about recent growth in median wages.

          I don’t follow that. Even if median wages are holding constant, most people have increasing income over their employed lifetime.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            That’s a fair point David, but Cassander’s narrative requires those expected wage gains to be sufficient to permanently move most/all current welfare recipients out of the income bands in which they qualify.

            I think that expectation is common and wrong, but I can’t say I’ve crunched the numbers.

            As a side note: even an accurate belief that “I oppose the welfare I currently receive because I may someday have to pay for it when I don’t receive it” is not particularly rational. You rationally pay for a lot of stuff you expect not to need for large chunks of your life.

            Saying “even the ones who receive welfare will one day not need welfare, therefore why should they value welfare?” is, I think, factually wrong, but either way it’s not a good way to think about the value of welfare to its recipients.

          • cassander says:

            >I think that expectation is common and wrong, but I can’t say I’ve crunched the numbers.

            it isn’t. I showed you the median wage figures below. I will grant you that I don’t have figures broken down by age, race and education level (any two of those is easy to find, but I’ve not found all three), but some back of the envelope math will show that the vast majority of whites in the lower income quintiles are either young or temporarily unemployed, not slaving away at minimum wage their whole lives.

            As a side note: even an accurate belief that “I oppose the welfare I currently receive because I may someday have to pay for it when I don’t receive it” is not particularly rational. You rationally pay for a lot of stuff you expect not to need for large chunks of your life.

            It isn’t, but “I oppose a welfare state that will cost me more than it is ever likely to benefit me” certainly is, and that is the calculation they are making and their math isn’t wrong.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            It isn’t, but “I oppose a welfare state that will cost me more than it is ever likely to benefit me” certainly is, and that is the calculation they are making and their math isn’t wrong.

            In order for it to determine the material choice between Democratic and Republican policies, this needs to show both that the voter will get limited lifetime benefits from the additional welfare associated with Democratic policies (ideally broadly defined to include all public goods) and that they will end up paying increased tax (again, broadly defined FWIW) under Democratic rather than Republican policies.

            Modelling lifetime welfare receipt is tricky. As you note, there will be some people who move in and/or out of the relevant income brackets, so lifetime will certainly be greater than mean annual.

            Modelling the difference in taxation is pretty easy – we can see exactly how much less tax each demographic in, say, Kansas can expect to pay following Brownback’s cuts, or how much they can expect to gain from extending the Obama tax cuts (side note: Holy shit, Kansas’ pre and post Brownback tax regime is barely progressive at all, the top marginal rate kicks in at $30k for a single filer – so just about everyone saves something I guess).

            I’m going to suggest that the set of people who can reliably expect to make up in tax cuts what they lose in welfare cuts under republican policies (state and federal) is a lot smaller than the number voting for republicans.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Just because Paul is opposed to taking resources from Peter to give to Paul doesn’t mean Paul is some kind of idiot. He could have an actual principle. Just like if Peter thinks his taxes should go up to help Paul, it doesn’t make Peter a moron.

      • hlynkacg says:

        @ Cassander,
        I feel obligated to point out that Clegg was explicitly reffering to “the common narrative” not objective fact. Clegg’s description of the narrative is accurate regardless of whether the narrative itself is true.

      • cassander says:

        @clegg

        I am thinking specifically of the Lee Atwater tape

        Lee Atwater, in his famous tape, is extremely misquoted. what he actually says after the famous quote is this this:

        “But Reagan did not have to do a southern strategy for two reasons. Number one, race was was not a dominant issue. And number two, the mainstream issues in this campaign had been, quote, southern issues since way back in the sixties. So Reagan goes out and campaigns on the issues of economics and of national defense. The whole campaign was devoid of any kind of racism, any kind of reference. And I’ll tell you another thing you all need to think about, that even surprised me, is the lack of interest, really, the lack of knowledge right now in the South among white voters about the Voting Rights Act.

        Now, you can say that he’s full of shit, or you can take him at his word. What you (the royal you, I mean, not accusing you of doing this Clegg) can’t do is say that he’s obviously telling the truth in paragraph before this one, and openly lying in this one.

        throughout the period in question, republican support in the south builds slowly. throughout the same period, the salience of racial issues declines in the south. This makes it very hard to make a case that the republicans have gotten ahead by exploiting racial issues. If anything, the evidence runs the other way, that republicans only succeeded as race became less important.

        @Philippe Lemoine

        occurred pretty late, but I’d like to read more.

        there was an extensive thread about it several months ago, with the voting data from wikipedia. As I recall, the share of the southern presidential vote that was republican (southern defined as the confederate states+west virginia and kentucky) was lower than the rest of the country in 68, 76, 80, and 84. in 88 it was tied, and in 92 and 96, southern voters were both more republican and more democratic, because of the 10 states ross perot did worst in, all 10 were southern. Note, it’s important to compare the southern totals not to the national total, but to the totals of the non southern states, other wise you artificially lower the average of the other states. If a candidate gets 45% in every southern state and 50% in every other state, republicans did 5% worse in the south, but only 3% worse than the national average, and this small difference was enough to dramatically alter the picture for closer elections.

        @pdbarnlsey says:

        but it’s the back half that’s key – “one day, I’ll be well off too, so why would I want to hurt my future self?”. Which requires a certain amount of ignorance about recent growth in median wages.

        Quite the opposite. the average person sees very strong growth in his wages as he ages. Most americans will spend time in the top 20% of income, and an even higher share of white people. Income is strongly correlated with age for obvious reasons. even if you’re right that median incomes are stagnating (and I think that can be disputed) that doesn’t meant that everyone in the country is making the same amount they were 20 years ago.

        Being more likely than other demographics to work in a coal mine would explain higher relative support, but not really higher absolute levels of support. That would require that these groups are more likely to work in brown industries than other industries, not more likely than other people. That’s only true for a super narrow definition of “these groups”.

        I do not believe that is mathematically correct. If you work in fossil fuels, you’re overwhelmingly more likely to vote republican, let’s say 90% compared to 50/50 for every other industry.. if group A is 20% fossil fuel workers, it will vote 58% republican, compared to 54% if only 10%.

        It doesn’t really explain why “coal miner” is such a political touchstone – I think it’s symbolic rather than materialistic, which I guess is a metonym for the whole argument about whether Trump supporters neglect their material interests.

        Well I didn’t try to explain that, but the issue can be both material and symbolic. miners famously live in mining towns, where the industry sustains not just those working in it, but indirectly everyone else. that makes the material issue important even to those whose job isn’t coal miner.

        That said, I think the better example is the keystone pipeline. that was a project that rather visibly through thousands of construction workers under a bus driven by the environmental lobby. Whatever the merits of the particular pipeline, it made it absolutely clear where democratic priorities lay, and it wasn’t with the blue collar welders.

        • Clegg says:

          @cassander
          Thank you for the additional information on Atwater, Reagan, etc.

          I am really interested in the question of how much a Republican platform of economic nationalism relies on racism, especially compared to a Republican platform of small government (or whatever you want to call the platform of Reagan/Bush/Ryan/etc). If you don’t think the small government platform relies on racism at all, that is fine, but then you are probably not interested in the particular question that interests me.

          • cassander says:

            I think either platform relies on racism a hell of a lot less than a democratic platform that involves explicit handouts to favored racial groups.

          • J Mann says:

            @Clegg

            You might be interested in Powerlineblog’s discussion of some more context and quotes from the Atwater interview.

            http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/06/what-did-lee-atwater-really-say.php

            Powerline is definitely writing from a right wing POV, so the best thing to do would be to listen to the whole interview to check them, but if their excerpts are accurate, Atwater gave a much more interesting interview than I think most people give him credit for.

            If Powerline’s quotes are representative, Atwater wasn’t saying that “cut taxes” was a dog whistle to hint to racists that Reagan was on their side, he was saying that racism didn’t play in the South any more, so that Reagan was able to win on economics and defense.

            Atwater conceded that (a) racism did play in the 60s and 70s, especially bussing and the voting rights act; (b) that economics had some racial impact, in that cutting welfare and taxes hurt blacks on average more than whites and helped less; and (c) that there were certainly some racist people in the south, but if you read the quotes together, he’s saying that people aren’t voting for the Reagan tax cuts because they don’t like black people, they’re voting for the Reagan tax cuts because they want to pay less taxes.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          if group A is 20% fossil fuel workers, it will vote 58% republican, compared to 54% if only 10%

          Now let’s try to find a definition of “Trump Supporters” which is 20% fossil fuel workers. Or even “brown industries” generally.

        • Thanks for this. Do you by any chance have a link to that extensive thread about the Southern Strategy from a few months ago? And again do you, or anybody else, know of a good article that makes the case for your position?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            For a second opinion, see my responses to Cassander elsewhere, as I think some of his claims are not well-supported. In particular, this claim that started the thread off:

            This narrative is demonstrably false. As I have discussed before, the south didn’t go republican in the 70s. The southern congressional delegation was almost entirely democratic until the 90s. While it’s true that republican presidents won in the south in this period, that’s because they won everywhere, winning an average of more than 40 states per election from 68 to 88. Despite this, the share of southerners voting for republican presidents was consistently lower than of the rest of the country.

            I think is mostly wrong; Nixon dominated the south in ’72, and Reagan won southern whites who are of course the relevant group more strongly than he won any other region in 1980.

            Also, as a counterargument to the claim that Nixon won the south by appealing to segregationists, it really needs to do more to reckon with the fact that explicit segregationist third parties won the south in 1948, 1968, captured the electoral votes of southern states in 1960, and that Republicans won the south in a year that was historically unfavourable to Republicans when they fielded a candidate who opposed civil rights in 1964.

            In short, the evidence seems to me that from 1964-1980, Republicans outperformed in the white south relative to the rest of the country, except when white southerners had the option to vote for an explicitly racist party in 1968, and this is exactly the sort of evidence consistent with the theory that the south realigned to vote Republican over civil rights.

          • cassander says:

            I think is mostly wrong; Nixon dominated the south in ’72, and Reagan won southern whites who are of course the relevant group more strongly than he won any other region in 1980.

            I didn’t deny that. In fact, I flat out said it. but one election does not make for a decades long strategy.

            it really needs to do more to reckon with the fact that explicit segregationist third parties won the south in 1948, 1968, captured the electoral votes of southern states in 1960,

            No, it doesn’t. the segregationists WEREN’T republicans, and implying that they were doesn’t change that. the existence of explicit segregationists is evidence that republicans aren’t courting them, not that they are.

            In short, the evidence seems to me that from 1964-1980, Republicans outperformed in the white south relative to the rest of the country, except when white southerners had the option to vote for an explicitly racist party in 1968

            In other words, they under performed in 68, under performed in 76, and under performed in 80, so in 3 of the 5 elections in your highly specific period, they did worse, and you call this “over performing”.

            , and this is exactly the sort of evidence consistent with the theory that the south realigned to vote Republican over civil rights.

            you’ve stacked the deck in your favor, and the evidence still doesn’t support your claim.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            To be honest, I’m a little disheartened at this response, I think it’s highly misleading, and isn’t really engaging with the course of the debate so far.

            Here’s what you said above that I’m responding to

            While it’s true that republican presidents won in the south in this period, that’s because they won everywhere, winning an average of more than 40 states per election from 68 to 88. Despite this, the share of southerners voting for republican presidents was consistently lower than of the rest of the country.

            Elsewhere you claimed that

            it appealed LEAST in the south

            and

            A theory that Republicans successfully appealed to explicitly southern interests is bunk if Republican appeals did worst in the south.

            But I pointed out that Republicans did not perform worse in the south in 1964, 1972 and 1980, if you look at white republicans, which is surely the relevant group. And while 1968 doesn’t show that Republicans were popular in the south it certainly shows that segregationists were.

            Hence, it is not true that white southerners were lukewarm Republicans (in 1964, 1972 and 1980, they were well above average temperature). Inasmuch as 1964, 1972, and 1980 contradict your claim that Republicans did worse in the south, you did deny that.

            No, it doesn’t. the segregationists WEREN’T republicans, and implying that they were doesn’t change that. the existence of explicit segregationists is evidence that republicans aren’t courting them, not that they are.

            Well, Goldwater was, and by the 1968 campaign, so were Thurmond, Dent, Callaway, Clarke, etc., etc., whose names have all come up before. They were also Nixon advisers, ‘southern coordinators’, and people with powerful roles in the Nixon administration.

            I’ll refer anyone reading this to my other comments to see what these people thought a Nixon presidency meant for them and their issues; search for “Bo Callaway”.

            Anyway, the argument is that Republicans won the south by courting segregationists, so of course we should expect that at the beginning of the process the segregationists are not Republicans, or only intermittently so. Wallace was not a Republican, but many of his voters in 1968 voted Republican in 1964, 1972 and 1980–in the latter years, after being deliberately courted by the Republican campaigns.

            In other words, they under performed in 68, under performed in 76, and under performed in 80, so in 3 of the 5 elections in your highly specific period, they did worse, and you call this “over performing”.

            First of all, they overperformed in 1980 when restricted to white southerners. And in 1976 white southerners were still Ford’s best group if broken out as a separate region, only not by an amount that looks imipressive. But Republicans did not underperform with white southerners in that election.
            Also, Republican underperformance in 1968 is not really evidence against the southern strategy.
            Let’s phrase it this way: the campaign most opposed to civil rights overperformed in the white south in 1948, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1980. That looks like more of a pattern, and it spans three decades, so a less highly specific period.

            (Whether 1976 is an exception or fits the pattern depends on how you view the Ford/Carter campaigns; the common wisdom is that Carter tried to win back some ‘Wallace’ voters by rhetorical opposition to busing, and Ford tried to distance himself from Nixon’s retreat from civil rights. I think this is also seen as the first election where black southern votes played a large role. In all, I don’t think 1976 is necessarily an exception to the above pattern, so much as a case when an opponent of civil rights could reasonably be indifferent between the two parties, but I’m not committed to defending this point; anyway, don’t forget white southerners were still Ford’s best group, just not by such a flashy amount as in the other listed elections).

            Then let’s point out that in 1964, 1972, and 1980 the campaign opposed to civil rights the most was the Republican campaign, and that in 1968 the Republican campaign was much more opposed to civil rights than it had been prior to 1964, only it had to compete against a maximally segregationist campaign.

            Now I think things look very different. Now it looks like white southerners can consistently be appealed to on the basis of civil rights issues, and that starting in 1964 and continuing through 1968, 1972, and 1980 Republicans made attempts to do so; unsuccessfully when competing against someone even more opposed to civil rights, but successfully otherwise.

            I should also say, stopping at 1980 is a little artificial, since I don’t know that 1984 doesn’t fit the pattern; only I couldn’t find data on white southern support for Reagan compared to other regions, and I didn’t even look for 1988 and beyond.

          • Thanks, Eugene. I’m equally interested in a defense of the traditional view about the Southern Strategy, so if you know a good piece that looks at the evidence, please let me know.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I don’t know of one article that makes the case; I’ll take a look. I should also say, I’m not wedded to the traditional view, at least not in its maximalist form; but I think some of the evidence given in this thread against it is either incomplete, misleading, or doesn’t really attack the central claims of the southern strategy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Eugene:

            To be honest, I’m a little disheartened at this response, I think it’s highly misleading, and isn’t really engaging with the course of the debate so far.

            This is sort of cassander’s “white whale”. He works, IIRC, at a Republican organization of some sort, and I think that effects how he views the issue.

          • cassander says:

            But I pointed out that Republicans did not perform worse in the south in 1964, 1972 and 1980, if you look at white republicans, which is surely the relevant group. And while 1968 doesn’t show that Republicans were popular in the south it certainly shows that segregationists were.

            First, you are flat out wrong on 80, reagan did less well in the south than elsewhere. Second, you ignore 84, where republicans also did less well, and 88, where they did almost exactly as well. Third, I have asked you several times to explain how segregationists refusing to vote for republicans somehow indicates republicans, and you have not done so.

            They were also Nixon advisers, ‘southern coordinators’, and people with powerful roles in the Nixon administration.

            Again, that nixon ran a presidential campaign in the south is not proof that he was narrowly appealing to southerners.

            I’ll refer anyone reading this to my other comments to see what these people thought a Nixon presidency meant for them and their issues; search for “Bo Callaway”.

            once again, you cannot name actual policies nixon pursued, just nice things he once said about someone.

            but many of his voters in 1968 voted Republican in 1964, 1972 and 1980–in the latter years, after being deliberately courted by the Republican campaigns.

            “Many” of his voters is a disingenuous phrase here and you know it. I could equally say that “many” of them voted for carter. that doesn’t prove carter was narrowly appealing to segregationists.

            First of all, they overperformed in 1980 when restricted to white southerners.

            you’ve not shown evidence of this.

            Let’s phrase it this way: the campaign most opposed to civil rights overperformed in the white south in 1948, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1980. That looks like more of a pattern, and it spans three decades, so a less highly specific period.

            Again, you have shown no evidence of your claim in 80. And I reject the claim that nixon was against civil rights in 72. Nixon passed a lot of pro-civil rights policies in his first term, and demonstrably refused to run away from them in 72. I grant you that the anti-civil rights campaign won in previous years, but except for 64, all those campaigns were run by democrats or dixiecrats, not republicans.

            Now I think things look very different. Now it looks like white southerners can consistently be appealed to on the basis of civil rights issues, and that starting in 1964 and continuing through 1968, 1972, and 1980 Republicans made attempts to do so; unsuccessfully when competing against someone even more opposed to civil rights, but successfully otherwise.

            I should also say, stopping at 1980 is a little artificial, since I don’t know that 1984 doesn’t fit the pattern; only I couldn’t find data on white southern support for Reagan compared to other regions, and I didn’t even look for 1988 and beyond.

            To be honest, I’m a little disheartened at this response, I think it’s highly misleading, and isn’t really engaging with the course of the debate so far.

            Sadly, I agree. You are picking highly specific years, you continue to conflate segregationist with republicans, and still have not addressed the fact that nixon, or any other republican except goldwater, actually addressed segregationist issues. All of your arguments are circumstantial.

            @HeelBearCub

            Wrong on all counts HBC, and a really lazy ad hominem at that.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It seems the comment I tried to post is too long; mercifully, it didn’t get lost, so I’ll divide my response up:

            First, you are flat out wrong on 80, reagan did less well in the south than elsewhere. Second, you ignore 84, where republicans also did less well, and 88, where they did almost exactly as well. Third, I have asked you several times to explain how segregationists refusing to vote for republicans somehow indicates republicans, and you have not done so.

            I am not flat out wrong on ’80; see here for a table derived from CBS and NYT data in 1980 showing that Reagan won white southerners 60-35, as compared to his second best showing in the far west, which he won 53-35. I have already linked this, and we’ve discussed it, so you knew that I was not wrong on this claim, unless you have some criticism to make of the data or my interpretation, neither of which you have done.
            I did not ignore 1984, I specifically mentioned it to point out that I had not seen data on the white southern vote, which is of course relevant in understanding the appeal of the southern strategy. You seemed to think it was “a good point that the racial mix of southern voting might have changed” before being shown data that in fact, the mix had changed enough for Reagan to win white southerners dramatically while still underperforming in the south as a whole; do you still think this is important? If so, what does the fact that Reagan won white southerners by a landslide say about the plausibility of the southern strategy?
            Anyway, I still haven’t been able to find a chart or anything like that on the white southern vote, but this Atlantic article says Mondale only won 28% of the white southern vote in 1984; since there was no third party candidacy that year, this seems to imply that Reagan won 72% of southern whites; this source says

            The 1984 results also showed the GOP reclaiming “Wallace country,” the conservative white South that deserted the Democratic Party with Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace in 1968

            and that

            Reagan made significant inroads among white Southerners

            i.e. his share of the white vote in 1984 wasbetter than the 60% in 1980.
            If Reagan won white southerners with 72% of the vote, then the only two states where he outperformed this percentage are Utah and Idaho; so no, Reagan did not underperform with southern whites in 1984, he seems to have performed about as well as Nixon did in ’72: a landslide win, even compared with his impressive totals elsewhere.

            And, just to keep going, the data I see for 1988 shows Bush winning the south 59-4, compared to 53-47 in the west and midwest, and 51-49 in the east. So you are wrong that Republicans did less well in the south in 1988 even ignoring the fact that it is the white southern vote that matters, not the southern vote. But, of course, if we look at the white southern vote, your data becomes even less exculpatory:
            here is a table showing Dukakis’s share of the white vote in various southern states. His highest share is Texas, with 39%. In the deep south, he won 28% of the white vote, and in the south as a whole, 33%. Again, this doesn’t give us Bush’s share of the vote, but given no strong third parties, we should expect that Bush won close to 72% of the white vote in the deep south and 67% in the south as a whole. Each of these totals is better than his draw in his best state: Utah, where he won 66% of the vote.
            Again, unless you have some criticism of the data or my interpretation of it, the data seems to show that Republicans were vastly more popular in the white south than elsewhere in the country.

            Thirdly, I have explained a number of times why the Wallace vote fits the southern strategy story, but once more:
            the Wallace 1968 vote shows that white southern voters could be won, and could be a bloc big enough to swing the south’s electoral college votes by appealing to them on civil rights issues. The fact that, in one election, the Republicans did not make the strongest appeal along these lines shows, if anything, that the rest of the Republican message was not inspiring enough for white southerners to vote for if the alternative was opposition to civil rights. Once Republicans became the sole owners of the anti-civil rights message in 1972, those white southerners were willing to vote for them–since the only change was that no there was no party even more opposed to civil rights, but otherwise the two parties were broadly the same as the previous election, the inference is, those Wallace voters moved to Nixon because, in the absence of Wallace, he moved from second to first choice on the issue of segregation, and this issue dominated their decision making. As long as Republicans continued to appeal on this issue, they could continue to win this segment of the vote.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            once again, you cannot name actual policies nixon pursued, just nice things he once said about someone.

            I of course did name a number of these policies in a comment elsewhere; you haven’t disputed the relevance of these policies, so I’ll just quote myself

            The argument along these lines focuses on his supreme court appointments, including two nominees who were rejected by Senate Democrats for “voiced support for racial segregation and white supremacy”, and the successful nomination of Rehnquist, who wrote a memo defending Plessy and arguing against Brown v. Board of Education.

            More generally, on desegregation, I’ll quote, since I can’t make the defense on the strength of my own knowledge. This is William Chafe, The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II:

            “In pre-inauguration meetings with Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, he pledged to seek the lifting of HEW guidelines that called for terminating federal funds to any school district that refused to desegregate. Since cutting off federal monies had provided the most effective instrument of promoting integration, Nixon in effect was offering the power of the presidency to delay, if not halt completely, federally imposed school desegregation”.

            “Thurmond’s close aide, Harry Dent [one of the southern segregationist advisors on the Nixon campaign – ED] became deputy counsel to the president with the specific assignment of protecting white southern interests. In January, HEW delayed one desegregation plan for five school districts in South Carolina. Then, in July, HEW head Robert Finch intervened on behalf of thirty-three school districts in Mississippi, requesting that federal courts slow down the process of desegregation already agreed to. Six weeks later, for the first time since the Brown decision in 1954, the Justice Department entered a federal court, not to argue for school desegregation, but rather to press for delay–all this in violation of the Supreme Court’s order a year earlier insisting on immediate school desegregation everywhere.”

            Other examples are Nixon’s pushing of the Student Transportation Moratorium Act, his firing of Leon Panetta as Director of the Office for Civil Rights, his response to the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg decision by saying he “opposed busing of our nation’s schoolchildren to achieve a racial balance”.

            The thing about Bo Callaway isn’t that Nixon “said nice things about him”, it’s that Callaway, who was an adviser to Nixon, thought that Nixon had

            promised the South he would change the law, change the Supreme Court, and change this whole integration business.

            i.e., he was a Nixon adviser who thought that Nixon’s campaign promises had included a promise to the south that he would stop integration.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            “Many” of his voters is a disingenuous phrase here and you know it. I could equally say that “many” of them voted for carter. that doesn’t prove carter was narrowly appealing to segregationists.

            True enough. On the other hand, in 1968, 1972, Reagan’s primary campaign in 1976, and 1980, Republicans targeted ‘Wallace voters’ in the south. (Carter did too in 1976, so I actually would accept that Carter made an attempt to appeal to segregationists).
            For example, one of Wallace’s campaign managers, realizing that Wallace had no chance of winning the 1976 Democratic nomination, cut an ad for Reagan, saying

            I’ve been a Democrat all my life. A conservative Democrat. As much as I hate to admit it, George Wallace can’t be nominated. Ronald Reagan can. He’s right on the issues. So,
            for the first time in my life, I’m going to vote in the Republican primary.
            I’m going to vote for Ronald Reagan.

            Reagan started his campaign in 1980 at the Neshoba county fair on the advice of the Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, who told him it would be a good way to attract “George Wallace-inclined voters”.
            Before the 1972 election, according to the NYT Gallup and and Harris showed the Wallace vote going either 2-1 or 3-1 for Nixon, the article says that

            the basic Nixon strategy is aimed at: (1) Consolidating and holding 1968 Nixon sup port; (2) Maximizing Walla cite support; and (3) wooing conservative Catholics, senior citizens and other traditional ists.

            From after the election, the Post confirms that Nixon won 75% of Wallace voters.

            A 1981 paper in Presidential Studies Quarterly, The Direction of the Wallace Vote in 1972 and 1976 by Richard McDonnell summarizes the results as follows

            In summation, Table I indicates that the direction of the Wallace vote 1972 was away from Democrat McGovern and toward Republican, Nixon.

            Further on, it says

            The negative tone of Table II further indicates that the Wallace candidacy was a way station on the road from the Democratic party to a more conservative, generally Republican voting pattern for a significant number of voters, especially blue-collar workers in the North and white in the South

            and closes by noting

            [this shift] could prove very significant in the close Presidential elections of this era.

            So, I think the evidence is both that Republicans did indeed deliberately court Wallace voters in 1972, 1976 (Reagan’s primary), and 1980, and that they had notable success with this.

            you’ve not shown evidence of this.

            It’s in the Wikipedia link at the top, and I brought it up elsewhere in our discussion; it seems Reagan won the white southern vote 60-35, his best total in any region.

            Again, you have shown no evidence of your claim in 80. And I reject the claim that nixon was against civil rights in 72. Nixon passed a lot of pro-civil rights policies in his first term, and demonstrably refused to run away from them in 72. I grant you that the anti-civil rights campaign won in previous years, but except for 64, all those campaigns were run by democrats or dixiecrats, not republicans.

            See above for 1980; this was also something I had mentioned in our previous conversation.

            Also see above for Nixon on civil rights; though for a little more nuance you can see my thoughts in my comment on Leon Panetta’s book. The idea is: Nixon’s administration was split between those who hoped the south would be happy with rhetorical support for segregation but no substantive action, and the Dents, Callaways, Thurmonds, who staffed his administrative and who wanted real substantive action. Nixon was constrained not just by factions in his administration, but by the Supreme Court, by Democrats in the Senate, and by ex-LBJ staffers manning various departments. One has to be careful to separate the influence of these factions on the actual policy to determine the administration’s stance; it would be absurd to say that because courts have held up Trump’s travel ban, that Donald Trump didn’t pursue a policy of limiting immigration and travel from Muslim countries. Or that Donald Trump supported and advanced transgender integration into the military, just because it seems the military bureaucracy is holding up his order to remove trans soldiers from service.
            Similarly, if the Supreme Court orders busing, but the Nixon administration fights the ruling and delays implementing it, but is forced in the end, it seems perverse to count this as the Nixon administration pushing civil rights–the truth is, the Nixon administration pushed against civil rights, and lost.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Sadly, I agree. You are picking highly specific years, you continue to conflate segregationist with republicans, and still have not addressed the fact that nixon, or any other republican except goldwater, actually addressed segregationist issues. All of your arguments are circumstantial.

            The only thing I agree with here is that my arguments are circumstantial since, when dealing with shifts in voting in a population of millions of people over a period of decades, I’m not sure any other kind of evidence is reasonable to expect.

            I should maybe say something about the choice of years. I think there’s an implicit argument here, that if one can’t show that the Republican vote in the south over the course of the decades since 1964 has in every case been decided over civil rights issues, then the southern strategy is false.
            My point of view is this: most peoples’ votes are habitual, and follow their parents. A perfectly good explanation for why the south votes Republican in 2016 is: they did in 2012, and 2008, and 2004, and 2000, and ….
            What needs explanation are changes in voting behaviour. Especially if those changes persist. The southern strategy argument is not, “because the Democrats passed civil rights in 1963, southerners continue to this day to support Republicans to express their continued opposition to civil rights”, it’s “because the Democrats passed civil rights in 1963, southerners spend the next two or so decades voting Republican to express their opposition; after a while, they were so habituated to voting Republican that even after opposition to civil rights died down, they persisted in their Republican vote”.
            This is why I think focusing on the era from 1948, when civil rights started climbing back on to the Democratic agenda, to 1980/1984, when civil rights started to die down as an issue, is entirely appropriate.

            I’ll close by saying that my intent here is not necessarily to prove that the southern strategy as commonly believed is really a true description of affairs. I started responding to this thread because I objected to people describing it as “debunked”. The arguments supposedly “debunking” this claim were:

            – the south only went Republican because the whole country did; in fact, Republican support in the south was weaker than in the country as a whole
            – the south only went Republican on the presidential level, not the congressional level

            for some reason, we’ve avoided the second part of this, but almost all of my arguments above are directed at the first part. I think I have shown that the Republicans had their strongest support in the white south, which is the relevant population for discussing the southern strategy and that white southerners started moving Republican before the big landslides (see Goldwater).
            In the course of debating this, I think I’ve also provided evidence that Republicans deliberately courted ‘Wallace voters’, often advised or helped by southern politicians, and that ‘Wallace voters’ responded to this appeal.

            One of my first comments touches on the congressional argument as well, but since no one has picked that up, and I’m sure this comment is obscenely long, I’ll just mention that anyone interested can go find that comment.

            Anyway, I think I am done with this argument; I think Cassander has ignored the data I’ve pointed out that doesn’t agree with his argument, and I don’t see us making any headway on this.

          • cassander says:

            The 1984 results also showed the GOP reclaiming “Wallace country,” the conservative white South that deserted the Democratic Party with Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace in 1968

            this quote is emblematic of the problematic nature of the evidence for the southern strategy. You cannot reclaim what you don’t have. if the republicans didn’t reclaim Wallace country until 1984, you can’t claim that they were winning it prior to 84. so which is it?

            i.e. his share of the white vote in 1984 wasbetter than the 60% in 1980.

            Again, I didn’t dispute that. but, again, republicans doing better in the south as time goes on is not evidence of a southern strategy, it’s more evidence that there was a lot of room for improvement in the 70s, i.e. the exact opposite of what is claimed.

            So you are wrong that Republicans did less well in the south in 1988 even ignoring the fact that it is the white southern vote that matters, not the southern vote.

            my claim was that in 88 republicans did as well in the south, not better, which is what the wikipedia vote totals say.

            Once Republicans became the sole owners of the anti-civil rights message in 1972, those white southerners were willing to vote for them

            Again, you assume the object of your argument to prove your case. Republicans did not take up an anti-civil rights message. At best/worst, they offered a slightly less pro-civil rights platform than the democrats.

            I of course did name a number of these policies in a comment elsewhere; you haven’t disputed the relevance of these policies, so I’ll just quote myself

            I have. Delaying de-segregation in 5 counties while pursing a nationwide integration policy so aggressive that northern cities started objecting is not taking up the anti-civil rights banner. You’re making mountains out of molehills.

            True enough. On the other hand, in 1968, 1972, Reagan’s primary campaign in 1976, and 1980, Republicans targeted ‘Wallace voters’ in the south.

            If by target, “we mean target with a racial appeal”, then no, according to lee atwater, they didn’t, and since we seem to be accepting the statements of campaign workers as gospel, do we not have to trust his?

            Reagan started his campaign in 1980 at the Neshoba county fair on the advice of the Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, who told him it would be a good way to attract “George Wallace-inclined voters”.

            ugh, this old chestnut. It’s absurd. what percentage of voters do you think knew what county reagan started his campaign in? if it was 1%, i would be shocked. this is more assuming the object then hunting for confirmation, not actual evidence of anything.

            the basic Nixon strategy is aimed at: (1) Consolidating and holding 1968 Nixon sup port; (2) Maximizing Walla cite support; and (3) wooing conservative Catholics, senior citizens and other traditional ists.

            It’s in the Wikipedia link at the top, and I brought it up elsewhere in our discussion; it seems Reagan won the white southern vote 60-35, his best total in any region.

            Also see above for Nixon on civil rights; though for a little more nuance you can see my thoughts in my comment on Leon Panetta’s book. The idea is: Nixon’s administration was split between those who hoped the south would be happy with rhetorical support for segregation but no substantive action, and the Dents, Callaways, Thurmonds, who staffed his administrative and who wanted real substantive action.

            that some people in the administration wanted X is not evidence that the administration did X.

            if the Supreme Court orders busing, but the Nixon administration fights the ruling and delays implementing it, but is forced in the end, it seems perverse to count this as the Nixon administration pushing civil rights–the truth is, the Nixon administration pushed against civil rights, and lost.

            Except he didn’t do that.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Jesus this shit again.

        Form 1948 forward the Democratic party’s support for civil rights began fracturing the South from the rest of the party. This is incontrovertible and was repeatedly stated.

        This led first to the loss of votes for Democratic candidates for president, but not for statewide or local offices. Both 3rd party candidates and Republican candidates for president were the beneficiaries of this. This is to be expected as the Democratic local candidates were still running as supporters of segregation, the main issue causing the fracture at the national level.

        • CatCube says:

          Yeah, I know. People keep repeating that stupid “Southern Strategy” as if it was actually a true description of Republican politics, even after it’s been debunked.

          • 1soru1 says:

            One day I will hear someone use the word ‘debunked’ in some sense other than ‘I already heard that argument and I don’t like it’.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I think ‘debunked’ is too strong; rather, I think the story where Democrats support civil rights in the 1960s —-> the south votes Republican forever more is too simplistic, and only captures a tiny part of the change. I think a story that goes like this:

            Democrats support civil rights —-> prominent conservative democrats switching parties, and lets Republicans start making inroads into the south for the first time in generations —> Republicans move to assemble a coalition that includes these new southern voters, but also appeals to suburban white voters outside of the south + black voters enfranchised by the Voting Rights Act allying with liberal southerners to vote Democrat in the south

            is a more sophisticated version of the story that’s a little harder to rebut directly.

            It’s true that the Republican appeal was not only segregationist, and did not only take hold in the south, but that doesn’t mean that appealing to southerners over segregation wasn’t the start of the realignment.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            One pretty good way to get Southerners to stop voting for your party is to go on and on about how anyone who gets the votes of Southerners must be wicked, because Southerners.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @Paul Zrimsek

            I’m not sure if your comment was directed at me, but I never claimed anyone was wicked for voting any particular way; I’m just pointing out that the claim that the “Republicans won the south using ‘Southern Strategy’ has been debunked” is only true on a fairly narrow definition of ‘Southern Strategy’.

          • cassander says:

            @eugene Dawn

            It’s true that the Republican appeal was not only segregationist, and did not only take hold in the south, but that doesn’t mean that appealing to southerners over segregation wasn’t the start of the realignment.

            Except it wasn’t a segregationist appeal, the Republicans never promised anything vaguely like that. And it didn’t just “appeal elsewhere”, until the 90s, it appealed LEAST in the south. Your assertions are completely at odds with how the voting and campaigning actually went down. So yes, the southern strategy has been refuted, and not in a narrow sense. A theory that Republicans successfully appealed to explicitly southern interests is bunk if Republican appeals did worst in the south.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @cassander

            See my response to you below: it certainly is the case that the south voting for Thurmond in ’48 and Wallace in ’68 was responding to an explicitly segregationist appeal; it’s not as clear-cut with Goldwater in ’64, but I think the facts that: the south was won on segregationist appeals before and after 1964, the fact that Goldwater was against civil rights, and the fact that Goldwater was the first Republican to win the south, inaugurating an era where the south was reliably Republican in the presidential vote is consistent with the basic story of the Southern Strategy.

            As to the claim that whatever message the Republicans ran on appealed least in the south; it depends on which elections you are referring to: for 1968, for example, this is easily explained by the fact that Wallace, an explicit segregationist, obviously would have appealed more strongly to the segregationist vote than Nixon. Is your claim that Republicans performed worst in the south in 1972, 1980, etc., as well as 1968?

            If I’m reading this Gallup data correctly, that seems incorrect: it has Nixon winning the south 71-29, compared with 60-40 for the midwest, 59-41 for the west, and 58-42 for the east.

            Also, I’m skeptical of arguments along these lines that don’t take into account the fact that the south would have had large populations of African Americans newly enfranchised by the Voting Rights Act; even if there were elections where Republicans running a ‘southern strategy’ underperformed in the south relative to elsewhere, depending on the numbers it may still be entirely consistent with a scenario where white southerners are enough to swing the region to the Republicans, but large minorities of black voters make it a narrower win.

          • cassander says:

            @eugene

            See my response to you below: it certainly is the case that the south voting for Thurmond in ’48 and Wallace in ’68 was responding to an explicitly segregationist appeal;

            It’s also the case that neither of those men was a republican.

            inaugurating an era where the south was reliably Republican in the presidential vote is consistent with the basic story of the Southern Strategy.

            again, the south WASN’T reliably republican. it remained the least republican part of the country until the 90s. It was just that republican presidential victories were so consistently overwhelming that they won the south despite being weak there.

            As to the claim that whatever message the Republicans ran on appealed least in the south; it depends on which elections you are referring to: for 1968, for example,

            this is easily explained by the fact that Wallace, an explicit segregationist, obviously would have appealed more strongly to the segregationist vote than Nixon.

            yes, that’s my point. the republicans didn’t cater to the segregationists and the voted for someone else.

            Is your claim that Republicans performed worst in the south in 1972, 1980, etc., as well as 1968?

            in 72, no, that is the one election between 68 and 88 where republicans do better in the south. but in 68 and 80, yes, republicans do worse.

            Also, I’m skeptical of arguments along these lines that don’t take into account the fact that the south would have had large populations of African Americans newly enfranchised by the Voting Rights Act;

            about 70 million people vote in the 1960 election, about 73 million voted in 1968, 76 million in 72, which means the increase was less than the increase in population. you make a good point that the racial mix of southern voting might have changed, but there don’t appear to be massive new numbers of voters showing up.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @ Cassander

            Of course neither Thurmond nor Wallace are Republicans, but Goldwater was; what explains his support in the south?

            I think maybe it’s worth stating what I think is the basic claim of the southern strategy:

            the south going from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican was motivated in large part by Republicans appealing to white southern voters on racial issues.

            From this point of view, the fact that in 1968, Republicans did not appeal as strongly as an explicitly segregationist third party to racially-motivated voters is hardly evidence against the southern strategy: it shows that appealing to white southerners on racial issues was a winning strategy at the time the time. The standard story is that Nixon in ’72 took advantage of the absence of a Wallace-type candidate to win people who were Wallace ’68 voters. The Wallace campaign was, if you like, proof-of-concept for the southern strategy: see, you can win the south by being against integration!

            I think everything I’ve mentioned supports this theory: the Thurmond/Wallace campaigns show that white southerners could be motivated to vote on racial issues; the Goldwater campaign shows that racial issues could even be strong enough to overcome the historic voting pattern in the region; then, in ’72 the Nixon campaign wins the south much more strongly than he won any other region…this basically is the southern strategy claim.

            The only thing missing is to argue that Nixon won those Wallace ’68 voters by means of some deliberate strategy, unlike Goldwater who won the south ‘accidentally’ on racial issues.

            While I agree that after ’72 the picture isn’t as clear, I think someone who believes the story above, who points out the role of Harry Dent, Strom Thurmond, and other segregationist southerners in Nixon’s campaign as ‘southern coordinators’, and who can find some damning-sounding quotes by Kevin Philips and Lee Atwater to show that the story above isn’t the result of accident, has a pretty serious case for at least some version of the southern strategy. It doesn’t prove that Republican strength in south since then is solely due to racially-motivated voting, but it makes a solid case that the switch in vote in the mid-late sixties really was racially motivated, and you can put together an argument that it was deliberate strategy.

            For the rest: it seems that black voter registration in the south really did spike around the late ’60s early ’70s, so I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that Reagan was less popular in the south due to the black vote out of hand (I guess someone should find voter data by state in the south, or at least see if Reagan’s voter share in the south is anti-correlated with the black population, but I’m too lazy); I also once read somewhere that Carter won the south largely on the strength of the black vote, but can’t find numbers on that.

            I agree that after this point, your objections become stronger, and it’s harder to argue that civil rights is the only thing going on: Reagan pretty clearly broadened the Goldwater coalition, and even segregationists like Thurmond started to abandon hardcore opposition to civil rights. But I think the number of defections of segregationist Democrats to Republicans shows that there was still some draw for segregationists in Republican politics, and you can come up with plenty of examples of racially-motivated appeals on the part of Reagan, Bush I, etc. It just gets harder to argue that they’re the only part of the appeal, and that the appeal is felt strongest in the south.

            This is why I don’t think you can call the southern strategy ‘debunked’. I think it’s fair to say people have a naive version of it, in which Republican opposition to civil rights in 1964 was like flipping a switch that brought all the racists over to them, and that this version of events isn’t true. But I don’t think your arguments are enough to dismiss the claim that southern white voters abandoned the Democrats and then moved to the Republicans in the ’60s and ’70s primarily over civil rights. Why they’ve stayed there, and why it took longer for the congressional vote to catch up are more complicated, but that basic part of the southern strategy doesn’t seem debunked to me at all.

          • cassander says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            Of course neither Thurmond nor Wallace are Republicans, but Goldwater was; what explains his support in the south?

            Goldwater explicitly ran on stopping civil rights legislation. He’s the only republican that did that, however.

            From this point of view, the fact that in 1968, Republicans did not appeal as strongly as an explicitly segregationist third party to racially-motivated voters is hardly evidence against the southern strategy: it shows that appealing to white southerners on racial issues was a winning strategy at the time the time

            .

            it does. it also, however, shows that republicans WEREN’T doing it, because if they were, there wouldn’t be a segregationist party.

            The standard story is that Nixon in ’72 took advantage of the absence of a Wallace-type candidate to win people who were Wallace ’68 voters. The Wallace campaign was, if you like, proof-of-concept for the southern strategy: see, you can win the south by being against integration!

            A good theory, if Nixon had run against integration, but he didn’t.

            n, in ’72 the Nixon campaign wins the south much more strongly than he won any other region…this basically is the southern strategy claim.

            Except for the minor detail of Nixon not taking up segregation as an issue.

            The only thing missing is to argue that Nixon won those Wallace ’68 voters by means of some deliberate strategy, unlike Goldwater who won the south ‘accidentally’ on racial issues.

            You mean like, for example, running against someone who advocated giving up on the Vietnam war and that not going well in the most pro-war segment of the country?

            While I agree that after ’72 the picture isn’t as clear, I think someone who believes the story above, who points out the role of Harry Dent, Strom Thurmond, and other segregationist southerners in Nixon’s campaign as ‘southern coordinators’, and who can find some damning-sounding quotes by Kevin Philips and Lee Atwater to show that the story above isn’t the result of accident, has a pretty serious case for at least some version of the southern strategy.

            You can do this, at best, for a single election, 72, and that does not make for a decades long strategy, which is the claim the traditional story makes.

            But I think the number of defections of segregationist Democrats to Republicans shows that there was still some draw for segregationists in Republican politics, and you can come up with plenty of examples of racially-motivated appeals on the part of Reagan, Bush I, etc. It just gets harder to argue that they’re the only part of the appeal, and that the appeal is felt strongest in the south.

            You can tell a much more coherent story where black voters become an essential block in the democratic party, this causes the party to increasingly give into what we now call identity politics, and this slowly alienates the non-identity portions of the country, driving them into republican arms. this fits actual voting patterns far more closely, there is a huge shift in black voting in 64 that they never look back from, and doesn’t require assuming that the country is full of secret racists straining to hear dog whistles.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Nixon didn’t run on segregation explicitly, but consider the Nixon administration’s stance on Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, a school desegregation case; though it was decided not to delay desegregation, Thurmond praised Nixon for “having stood with the South”. The argument is that, with Thurmond, Dent, etc. advising Nixon, they were well placed to reassure southern whites that the Nixon administration would side with southern whites on issues of desegregation.

            Now, I don’t want to get too far over my skis here: one court case doesn’t prove too much; just, I don’t think you can claim that Nixon was pro-integration, and it’s clear that southern segregationists felt like Nixon was reliable on issues important to them. This was in 1969, by the way, so it’s not at all unreasonable to suppose that issues like this would have convinced southern whites that they could vote Nixon even without a Wallace in the race.

            As to the claim about black voters moving to Democrats first, this is actually the mechanism posited by one of the architects of the southern strategy, Kevin Philips, in 1970: “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

            From this point of view, there isn’t much strategy; rather, the Democrats enacted an ‘anti-southern strategy’, that pushed Republicans away. This is still completely compatible with the idea that southern whites moved to vote Republican over racial issues, though; it just means that the Republican party was more passive than active.

            This, by the way, is the version of the southern strategy I think is truest: I think Nixon and Reagan made some efforts to appeal to southern whites on racial lines, but it was hardly the whole of their campaigning, but that southern whites were appeased by even these minor gestures as they were so disenchanted by Democrats embrace of civil rights.

          • cassander says:

            This was in 1969, by the way, so it’s not at all unreasonable to suppose that issues like this would have convinced southern whites that they could vote Nixon even without a Wallace in the race.

            Possibly, but then Nixon started integrating schools, endorsing the ERA, and busing. The more plausible read is that nixon was trying to tread a middle line and offend as few people as possible.

            “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

            Phillips might have said that, but by 68 that process was done. and even if he’s absolutely correct, that says nothing about republicans changing positions, and fits my theory of democrats driving people away as well as republican whistling.

            This, by the way, is the version of the southern strategy I think is truest: I think Nixon and Reagan made some efforts to appeal to southern whites on racial lines, but it was hardly the whole of their campaigning, but that southern whites were appeased by even these minor gestures as they were so disenchanted by Democrats embrace of civil rights.

            If we accept the word of campaign managers, you can make case for this case for Nixon in 1972. but you can’t make it for 68 or any subsequent election, and that this strategy played out over decades is an explicit claim of the traditional narrative.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Allow me to follow up with what I think is a position that reconciles us: I think your posited mechanism and mine are essentially the same, up to an identification of “rejecting identity politics” and “responding to racial appeals”. I think the reason Nixon as opponent of desegregation looks strongest is because the kind of stuff that a white southerner only four or eight years off a vote for Wallace would consider “identity politics” is the kind of stuff that is almost uniformly regarded as a “racial appeal” today; this is I think the real point of the famous Lee Atwater quote.

            Essentially, an unspoken corollary to the traditional argument is that what counts as an appeal to racism has changed; so what starts off as appeals to defend segregation become appeals to oppose busing become appeals appeals to support states’s rights …
            this I think is the real bone of disagreement. It’s why I tried to say “racially motivated appeal” rather than racism; I think “I stopped voting for Democrats because of their idiot identity politics over race” counts as ‘left the Democrats over racial issues’, and thought this more neutral phrasing might help. But I guess euphemisms work both ways, and it’s impossible to read ‘racially motivated’ as anything other than ‘racist’.

          • cassander says:

            @Eugene Dawn says:

            I think the reason Nixon as opponent of desegregation looks strongest is because the kind of stuff that a white southerner only four or eight years off a vote for Wallace would consider “identity politics” is the kind of stuff that is almost uniformly regarded as a “racial appeal” today; this is I think the real point of the famous Lee Atwater quote.

            Essentially, an unspoken corollary to the traditional argument is that what counts as an appeal to racism has changed; so what starts off as appeals to defend segregation become appeals to oppose busing become appeals appeals to support states’s rights …

            I agree, but, again, we have the problem of nixon not actually being an opponent of de-segregation. by the standards of racism at the time, nixon wasn’t race baiting, and he started busing and pushed de-segregation. At most, can be accused of not de-segregating as vigorously as some others might have.

            this I think is the real bone of disagreement. It’s why I tried to say “racially motivated appeal” rather than racism;

            Again, I have to ask, what appeal? what policies did he pursue that the segregationists actually wanted? Sure, he said a nice thing once about some segregationist, but that on its own tells you almost nothing. Bush II probably said nice things about hugo chavez at some point.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Sorry, one more thing on this:

            this NYT review of the book published by Leon Panetta after being fired from Nixon’s department of Health, Education, and Welfare, from 1971 is worth a read, and possibly may help clear up some debate.

            It starts by noting a complaint from Howard Callaway, one of the southerners who did southern outreach for the Nixon campaign

            ‘Nixon promised the South he would change the law, change the Supreme Court, and change this whole integration business. The time has come for Nix on to bite the bullet, with real changes and none of this commu nicating bull—’.” So much for any more of this long and tiresome de bate about what the “Southern strat egy” means. Bo Calloway has given the most admirably concise definition we are likely to get.

            Notice that even in 1971, it was understood that the southern strategy referred to Nixon promising southerners he would oppose desegregation, and argues that this is pretty good evidence that white southerners really did hear that message.

            It also, I think, presents a way forward for understanding how much the Nixon administration really did for these white southerners:

            the Administration was not out of a Herblock cartoon—a ruthless gang Of bad guys working smoothly to gether to slow down, or stop, the evolution of what is fondly known as the “New South” among liberals. Rather, the Administration suffered a certifiable case of schizophrenia caused by internal division between, roughly, those aides out to win the Wallace vote while quietly standing strong against recalcitrant segrega tionists, and those out to win the Wallace vote by caving in while ap pearing to stand strong.

            Both sides had their victories.

            So, part of Nixon’s strategy was to offer only rhetorical support for segregationist positions and hope that would be enough; others wanted genuine material support.

            The President comes through— vaguely, for Panetta never met him personally—as a man whose instincts are to do the right and honorable thing. When he dares. Robert Finch is seen, and frequently, as a well meaning man, neither tough enough, nor clever enough (in all fairness, would anyone be?) to outmaneuver Strom Thurmond, Southern Congres sional leaders in general, Southern Republicans, balky school district of ficials and the conservatives in the White House.

            The article ends by saying that the southern strategy failed, as it didn’t lead to widespread GOP support in the south. Recall, this is from 1971–the year before Nixon won the south with 71% of the vote, much higher than his totals elsewhere in the country. Should this later fact change our the NYT’s assessment of the strategy’s success?

            So, the defense of Nixon is: he never really did much to oppose segregation, he let desegregation go on around him, occasionally taking a rhetorical pose against it, or using some symbolic action that would only slow it down to burnish his credentials in the eyes of racially motivated southern white voters, and it probably didn’t work as a strategy anyway.

            The prosecution is: his administration was partially staffed by true believers in the segregationist cause, who regarded some of the so-called ‘symbolic’ victories as substantive victories (if not as comprehensive as they might have liked), his rhetorical pose offered support to segregationists, and it paid off a year later in huge support in the south.

            I can’t convince you to believe the prosecution, but I hope I can convince you that the facts support the prosecution about as well as they support the defense: Nixon really did have an administration that took action to appeal to white southerners over issues like segregation, and there is some evidence that some important southerners really believed they were getting something from Nixon.

            Does this prove that the only reason Nixon won the south again in 1972 is because of this wishy-washy support for segregation? No, of course not, but given the dramatic change in voting behaviour in a region that had previously seen dramatic change in voting behaviour over precisely the issue of segregation; given that Nixon won the south with much higher margins than elsewhere in the country in 1972; given that a number of white southern Democrats became Republicans at the same time as they aligned themselves with the Nixon administration; given that we know at least some of these people genuinely believed that Nixon had promised to “change the law” and “change the supreme court” to support them, that it’s not at all unreasonable to believe that latent segregationist beliefs were a major factor in Nixon winning the south in 1972.

            Given that this is the core of the “southern strategy” claim (notice the NYT reference to it in 1971; clearly not referring to a decades-long continuation of this pattern), I think it is very much not debunked.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            A little more: Wiki on the Reagan coalition says that Reagan won white southerners 60-35-3 (Jon Anderson was a 3rd party candidate) in 1980; his next best is the west where he won 53-35-9. Compare to Ford/Carter in ’76 when Ford won white southerners 52-46.

            I can’t find the same data for 1984, but it seems that Reagan really did have outsize support among white southerners at least in 1980, so the claim that Republican appeal was weaker in the south doesn’t seem to hold up in general.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          I agree, but, again, we have the problem of nixon not actually being an opponent of de-segregation. by the standards of racism at the time, nixon wasn’t race baiting, and he started busing and pushed de-segregation. At most, can be accused of not de-segregating as vigorously as some others might have.

          So, now we start to get to stuff that I probably don’t know well enough to make a strong case for, but, the basic idea is that, though desegregation happened under Nixon’s watch, that’s not an argument that he ‘started busing and pushed de-segregation’, so long as one can show that he opposed these measures as much as he could. The argument along these lines focuses on his supreme court appointments, including two nominees who were rejected by Senate Democrats for “voiced support for racial segregation and white supremacy”, and the successful nomination of Rehnquist, who wrote a memo defending Plessy and arguing against Brown v. Board of Education.

          More generally, on desegregation, I’ll quote, since I can’t make the defense on the strength of my own knowledge. This is William Chafe, The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II:

          “In pre-inauguration meetings with Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, he pledged to seek the lifting of HEW guidelines that called for terminating federal funds to any school district that refused to desegregate. Since cutting off federal monies had provided the most effective instrument of promoting integration, Nixon in effect was offering the power of the presidency to delay, if not halt completely, federally imposed school desegregation”.

          “Thurmond’s close aide, Harry Dent [one of the southern segregationist advisors on the Nixon campaign – ED] became deputy counsel to the president with the specific assignment of protecting white southern interests. In January, HEW delayed one desegregation plan for five school districts in South Carolina. Then, in July, HEW head Robert Finch intervened on behalf of thirty-three school districts in Mississippi, requesting that federal courts slow down the process of desegregation already agreed to. Six weeks later, for the first time since the Brown decision in 1954, the Justice Department entered a federal court, not to argue for school desegregation, but rather to press for delay–all this in violation of the Supreme Court’s order a year earlier insisting on immediate school desegregation everywhere.”

          Other examples are Nixon’s pushing of the Student Transportation Moratorium Act, his firing of Leon Panetta as Director of the Office for Civil Rights, his response to the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg decision by saying he “opposed busing of our nation’s schoolchildren to achieve a racial balance”.

          Anyway, this is probably an obscenely long comment already, so I’ll stop, but I’ll just say, I don’t think the evidence is clear that Nixon “pushed de-segregation”, or that at most he wasn’t as vigorous as others might have been in opposing it.

          The above is meant as a partial answer as well to the “what appeal?” question: Nixon was not a committed segregationist, and anyway, the Supreme Court, plus LBJ holdovers in various civil rights departments, plus public opinion elsewhere made a push to reestablish full Jim Crow impossible, but you can make a solid case that Nixon, in alliance with southern white politicians, including some at the leading edge of the transition from Democrat to Republican, worked to oppose desegregation where possible.

      • Wrong Species says:

        The Democrats managed to have a hold on the South for a hundred years, even when a popular Republican like Eisenhower ran. The fact that Nixon was able to get every southern state is pretty significant.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        This narrative is demonstrably false. As I have discussed before, the south didn’t go republican in the 70s. The southern congressional delegation was almost entirely democratic until the 90s. While it’s true that republican presidents won in the south in this period, that’s because they won everywhere, winning an average of more than 40 states per election from 68 to 88. Despite this, the share of southerners voting for republican presidents was consistently lower than of the rest of the country.

        This seems, at best, incomplete. There is more evidence than just the presidential vote in the south going Republican during Republican blowouts:
        – The Dixiecrats won the South in 1948, a party that specifically split off of the Democrats over segregation
        – Segregationists in the 1960 election got faithless electors to vote for (segregationist) Harry Byrd in southern states
        – The south backed Goldwater in 1964, a decidedly non-Republican blowout (other than his home state of Arizona, it’s the only place he won)
        – Segregationist George Wallace won the south with a third party in 1968

        So there is a long trend of the south moving away from Democrats over segregation before Nixon/Reagan that I don’t think can be written off by noting that some Republican wins of the south were as part of Republican landslides.

        Also, the point about congress is also incomplete. It’s true that it took longer for the south to move to Republicans in the congressional vote, but some of this is attributable to the fact that Democratic representatives who had seniority in congress didn’t want to give it up by changing parties; a good example of this is Mississippi congressman William Colmer, a Democrat who opposed integration, and so endorsed Nixon and Goldwater for president; but who stayed a Democrat to avoid giving up his chairmanship of the Rules committee. When he retired, his assistant Trent Lott became his successor–running as a Republican. Dynamics like this helped Democrats persist in the south longer than in the presidential vote, and so the fact that it took the congressional vote longer to flip isn’t necessarily evidence against the Southern Strategy hypothesis.

        Also, I would be curious if the fact that the Republican share of the southern vote being smaller than average would still hold if restricted to white southerners, which is surely what matters.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Your insistence that the Southern Strategy couldn’t possibly have been real given the electoral results is less compelling than the multiple RNC heads who have admitted it was real, and apologized for it:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/13/AR2005071302342.html

        http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/steele-african-americans-really-don-t-have-a-reason-to-vote-gop

        At best you’re quibbling over whether it was a strategy that worked or not. Using it to claim the strategy didn’t happen, when Republican leaders have been quite explicit that they did it, is giving me this weird picture of Adnan Sayed confessing that he did it in the first episode of Serial, and then the show still spending like ten episodes obsessing about whether Best Buy had a pay phone or not.

        They admitted it. We can stop theorizing about other possible scenarios now.

        • cassander says:

          Your insistence that the Southern Strategy couldn’t possibly have been real given the electoral results is less compelling than the multiple RNC heads who have admitted it was real, and apologized for it:

          Because politicians are bold truth tellers who never pander to popular prejudices? I mean seriously, we aren’t children.

          At best you’re quibbling over whether it was a strategy that worked or not. Using it to claim the strategy didn’t happen

          No, I’m saying that the actual voting results tell a very different story. The southern strategy thesis is at odds with the facts, and nothing Ken Mehlman can say can change that.

          >when Republican leaders have been quite explicit that they did it,

          putting aside the truthfulness of politicians, they said that OTHERS did it, not them. if they had said they did it, I might listen, but that’s not what they’ve actually said. Instead, they’ve thrown others under the bus for their own advancement.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Based on your knowledge of this topic, I assume you’ve seen the infamous Lee Atwater quote. That wasn’t talking about others, that was speaking for himself. Did you know he gave it a year after he pioneered the practice of push-polling? His particular method was to call southern whites and ask them if knowing his opponent was a member of the NAACP affected their opinion of him.

            (On the strength of that 1980 campaign, he was hired by Reagan’s White House.)

            But if you’re sick of Atwater, how about Nixon’s people talking about their own campaign (and policies post-campaign).

            “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. […] You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

            John Erlichman

            http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/john-ehrlichman-richard-nixon-drug-war-blacks-hippie/index.html

            As another aside, as has been pointed out by others on like the past 3 threads where you have brought out this argument, the electoral results are also far less compelling than you seem to think they are. Nixon failed to win the South… because George Wallace was also in the race running on an openly racist platform.

            If you doubt that, here is John Sears (who also went on to work for Reagan in two presidential campaigns) in a memo to Nixon, planning their reelection campaign, from the Nixon library, on the topic of Wallace:

            “The important thing is to draw a clear line delineating how far we will go to fight his candidacy and then religiously adhere to it. He senses that he has us in a bind since (1) if we chase him too far in an effort to hold onto Southern votes, we lost support in the rest of the country; (2) if we don’t chase him far enough he might hurt us more in the South than he did the last time. In either case there would be more of a chance that the election would wind up in the House than was true in 1968. Look for Wallace to run a strictly Southern campaign this time since (1) it costs less money (2) he can focus his positions better and (3) he will feel this is the best way to get us to chase him.

            We have gone as far as we can on the race-school-crime-law and order issue. For a fair amount of time we should keep quiet about this. A fair number of people in the Middle and Far West are beginning to wonder whether we aren’t a little too Southern in our view of the “social issue” to fit local prejudices. Talk of a “Southern Strategy,” appointment of Southern judges to the Supreme Court and compacts with Southern politicians in Congress only add credence to assertions made against
            us in the Middle and Far West.

            If Wallace finds a successful issue to use against us this
            time, it will be populism, not race. Improving the economy as
            it relates to the white lower-to-middle class American will do
            more to defuse Wallace’s impact than anything further on race.”

            https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/documents/contested/contested_box_20/Contested-20-17.pdf

            But isn’t he arguing against the Southern Strategy? Yes – as a change from what they did previously! This is an internal strategy document discussing the matter as a pure issue of strategy.

            (By the way, you might notice the ‘Contested’ label there. The veracity of the document is not contested, their publication was due to their private and personal/political nature. See here: https://nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/documents/contested/index.php )

          • MrApophenia says:

            My post appears to have been eaten, not sure why – trying a repost:

            Based on your knowledge of this topic, I assume you’ve seen the infamous Lee Atwater quote. That wasn’t talking about others, that was speaking for himself. Did you know he gave it a year after he pioneered the practice of push-polling? His particular method was to call southern whites and ask them if knowing his opponent was a member of the NAACP affected their opinion of him.

            (On the strength of that 1980 campaign, he was hired by Reagan’s White House.)

            But if you’re sick of Atwater, how about Nixon’s people talking about their own campaign (and policies post-campaign).

            “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. […] You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

            John Erlichman

            http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/john-ehrlichman-richard-nixon-drug-war-blacks-hippie/index.html

            As another aside, as has been pointed out by others on like the past 3 threads where you have brought out this argument, the electoral results are also far less compelling than you seem to think they are. Nixon failed to win the South… because George Wallace was also in the race running on an openly racist platform.

            If you doubt that, here is John Sears (who also went on to work for Reagan in two presidential campaigns) in a memo to Nixon, planning their reelection campaign, from the Nixon library, on the topic of Wallace:

            “The important thing is to draw a clear line delineating how far we will go to fight his candidacy and then religiously adhere to it. He senses that he has us in a bind since (1) if we chase him too far in an effort to hold onto Southern votes, we lost support in the rest of the country; (2) if we don’t chase him far enough he might hurt us more in the South than he did the last time. In either case there would be more of a chance that the election would wind up in the House than was true in 1968. Look for Wallace to run a strictly Southern campaign this time since (1) it costs less money (2) he can focus his positions better and (3) he will feel this is the best way to get us to chase him.

            We have gone as far as we can on the race-school-crime-law and order issue. For a fair amount of time we should keep quiet about this. A fair number of people in the Middle and Far West are beginning to wonder whether we aren’t a little too Southern in our view of the “social issue” to fit local prejudices. Talk of a “Southern Strategy,” appointment of Southern judges to the Supreme Court and compacts with Southern politicians in Congress only add credence to assertions made against us in the Middle and Far West.

            If Wallace finds a successful issue to use against us this time, it will be populism, not race. Improving the economy as it relates to the white lower-to-middle class American will do more to defuse Wallace’s impact than anything further on race.”

            https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/documents/contested/contested_box_20/Contested-20-17.pdf

            But isn’t he arguing against the Southern Strategy? Yes – as a change from what they did previously! This is an internal document discussing the Southern Strategy as a pure issue of strategy, pros and cons. What else were you looking for?

            (By the way, you might notice the ‘Contested’ label there. The veracity of the document is not contested, their publication was due to their private and personal/political nature. See here: https://nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/documents/contested/index.php )

          • cassander says:

            Based on your knowledge of this topic, I assume you’ve seen the infamous Lee Atwater quote. That wasn’t talking about others, that was speaking for himself.

            No, he wasn’t. to quote atwater on what he actually did “But Reagan did not have to do a southern strategy for two reasons. Number one, race was was not a dominant issue. And number two, the mainstream issues in this campaign had been, quote, southern issues since way back in the sixties. So Reagan goes out and campaigns on the issues of economics and of national defense. The whole campaign was devoid of any kind of racism, any kind of reference. And I’ll tell you another thing you all need to think about, that even surprised me, is the lack of interest, really, the lack of knowledge right now in the South among white voters about the Voting Rights Act.”

            Nixon failed to win the South… because George Wallace was also in the race running on an openly racist platform.

            and again I am forced to point out that this proves my point for me. If nixon was accommodating those voters, they wouldn’t have voted 3rd party. the existence of dixiecrats is proof that republicans weren’t courting them, not that they were.

            “The important thing is to draw a clear line delineating how far we will go to fight his candidacy and then religiously adhere to it. He senses that he has us in a bind since…..

            To summarize this quote, they are planning a presidential campaign that involves the south. they are quite sure they will win a plurality of the electoral votes but are worried that the election might go to the house because because they aren’t racist enough to win the south, and aren’t willing ot be. That, again, sounds like evidence against a southern strategy. The one you quote says nothing about secret appeals, it even flat states that race is becoming a less salient issue! You’re playing a game of quoting every time nixon or someone who works for him mentions the south as evidence of some nefarious plot, when they are nothing of the sort.

          • MrApophenia says:

            You neatly avoided the important bit:

            We have gone as far as we can on the race-school-crime-law and order issue. For a fair amount of time we should keep quiet about this. A fair number of people in the Middle and Far West are beginning to wonder whether we aren’t a little too Southern in our view of the “social issue” to fit local prejudices. Talk of a “Southern Strategy,” appointment of Southern judges to the Supreme Court and compacts with Southern politicians in Congress only add credence to assertions made against us in the Middle and Far West.”

            Sears is arguing against the use of their 1968 Southern Strategy in the 1972 campaign, because he thinks it has drawbacks and won’t work; but in doing so he is explicitly acknowledging that they did it in 1968!

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          They admitted it.

          Huh? Where? The Southern Strategy means the GOP explicitly stoked racial tensions as policy in order to win white votes. No where in your links is that supported.

          Let’s extract this:

          With the aid of Harry Dent and South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who had switched to the Republican Party in 1964, Richard Nixon ran his 1968 campaign on states’ rights and “law and order”. Liberal Northern Democrats accused Nixon of pandering to Southern whites, especially with regard to his “states’ rights” and “law and order” positions, which were widely understood by black leaders to symbolize southern resistance to civil rights

          So Reagan running on Law and Order in 1968 was running a “Southern Strategy”?

          This the quote from the article:

          “By the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out,” Mehlman says in his prepared text. “Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”

          Where in this does the “Southern Strategy” fit in?

          Ken Mehlman was 2 years old in 1968. He is not the expert on electoral politics in the 1960s.

          • MrApophenia says:

            See the thread above with cassander. About 10 minutes of Googling the Nixon Library turned up an internal campaign memo talking about the pros and cons of the Southern Strategy.

            And like, that was just literally searching “southern strategy Haldeman” because I know there was a Haldeman quote about this too that I couldn’t find. It’s not even hard to find this unless you are working really, really hard not to believe it.

            Oh, and also, check out the reason Sears is arguing they should chill out on the stoking of racial tensions for the re-election campaign – it was because even back in the late 60s it was so obvious that people all over the country were being repulsed by Nixon’s “chasing Wallace” (Sears’ words, not mine) by catering to Southern racists and they were losing votes over it everywhere but the South. And again, this was an internal assessment by the Nixon campaign.

    • Placid Platypus says:

      If economic nationalism actually helps a lot of the “Angry White Men” who elected Trump, Trump doesn’t need to rely on racism to hold their support.

      That’s a pretty big if. Two actually: first that he can actually implement any such policies (not much sign of that so far), and second that those policies will really help his base (evidence there is mixed at best).

      • Clegg says:

        The data show attempted illegal crossings of the Mexican border fell significantly after the election, which suggests that his rhetoric alone has been effective at cracking down on illegal immigration. (The linked WaPo article confuses people trying and failing to cross the border, which is what DHS reports, with illegal immigration; I don’t know of any usable data on actual number of people entering the country illegally.)

        There have been numerous articles this summer with farmers complaining about the labor shortage. So whatever Trump is doing on immigration, although it isn’t much yet, it is having an impact.

        I acknowledge that it remains to be seen whether increases in commercial farm labor costs will create new market opportunities for independent small farms, or otherwise help Trump’s core supporters. But the combination of reduced competition from large farms (due to a labor shortage), reduced foreign competition when/if Trump successfully implements trade protections, and reduced regulations (which are coming here and there) seems in general to have a chance of creating new opportunities for some Americans.

    • apollocarmb says:

      what is “economic nationalism”?

    • tscharf says:

      The narrative that Trump relies on racism for support is problematic.

      Perhaps constantly labeling “White Men” as racists turns them into “Angry White Men”? I’ll have to check the social sciences to see if this narrative is how to win hearts and minds or if this is counterproductive and makes people defensive and less accepting of arguments.

      It’s possible people hold views on terrorism, immigration, abortion, freedom of speech, size of government, crime, education, and economics where race plays very little role in their opinions even if the preferred polices have disparate impacts racially. One way to find out would be to ask them but it is far easier to simply assume what lies in their soul.

      There may be confusion over whether racism is an accusation of motive (as it is normally received). It is apparent that some believe a person is racist if they support policies that have disparate racial impacts even if the policy is legally race neutral.

      If all the terrorism was coming from Iceland, would people still be wanting a Muslim ban? Or would they want restrictions on immigration from Iceland? It is more likely they seem to be bigoted against terrorists, not Muslims. It’s a valid debate over whether using such a blunt immigration tool is wise policy, but inferring someone dislikes Muslims and is using terrorism as a cover for this bigoted discrimination is not likely to be true most of the time and will alienate almost all the time.

      • 1soru1 says:

        The narrative that Trump relies on racism for support is problematic.

        I think what you are describing there is more the _mechanism_ by which Trump relies or racism for support.

        The two parties are in a bidding war for white votes. Both agree racism is bad. Both know positive messages are good, and criticizing potential voters is a failing strategy.

        This is a bidding war the Republicans will always win.

        Democrats can say ‘you are not racist if you have reasonable concerns on immigration’ and Republicans can outbid them with ‘you are not racist even if you think building a wall is a proportionate response’

        Democrats can say ‘you are not racist if you want effective law enforcement’ and Republicans and counter with ‘you are not racist even if you want a corrupt buffoon running racial internment camps’.

        There is nothing the Democrats can say to reassure white voters than can’t be outbid by the other side. Which means the message getting through will always be ‘they think you are racist’.

        The same dynamic applies within the Republican party, in primaries. Which is how we end up with Trump saying ‘you are not racist even if you cross the country to join a torchlight rally with the goal of starting a fight over a Confederate statue’.

        Which may, or may not, turn out to be a step too far…

        If the process becomes too transparent, people will come to realize they are being tricked. Once they do, they will see that they are being sold policies that are not merely racially biased, but _deliberately_ chosen to be stupid, expensive and ineffective, in order to get that sweet ‘_this_ is for you; _they_ are against it’ dynamic.

        • Randy M says:

          This is the exact form of the argument “Democrats will always win with poor/minority voters” ie, no matter how much stuff Republicans promise, Democrats will always plausibly (in terms of intention, if not fiscal possibility) promise more.

          I’m not sure if that makes the argument more or less true.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Yeah I considered adding an aside on that.

            It’s not completely symmetrical, though, because of the obvious mathematical properties of the word ‘minority’. Consequently, there very much is a limit on how high Democrats can bid:

            ‘You are still oppressed even if slavery has been abolished’ works great.

            ‘You are still oppressed even if civil rights laws are on the book’ starts to lose white voters.

            ‘You are still oppressed even if you are rich’ is about where it would lose more than it gains. So you rarely see that, and when you do it is not from successful national politicians.

  4. Joeleee says:

    So in the comments on the recent post on EA, Scott mentioned that there wasn’t much focus put on causes with payoffs more than 100 years in the future, because of the huge expected step change from the singularity. That got me thinking on how focused we should be on global warming as a problem, if the singularity is expected within the next 100 years, which is usually the time frame for when the really bad outcomes from catastrophic GW are predicted. Any thoughts?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      The singularity is dumb and won’t happen.

      But trying to figure out what will pay off 100 years from now is still next-to-impossible because of the confluence of many smaller changes.

      (Edit: All irony from my username aside. It’s a cool concept to noodle about. But it won’t actually happen.)

      • Well... says:

        The singularity is dumb and won’t happen.

        There seem to be many smart people with relevant expertise on both the “it will happen” and “it won’t happen” sides of the singularity question. Is this a semantics problem? Why don’t you think it will happen?

        • CatCube says:

          The singularity seems to assume that 1) an arbitrarily-advanced computer will be arbitrarily smart, and 2) an arbitrarily smart computer can make arbitrary advances, that is, raw thinking power is the only rate-limiting step in the advance of knowledge.

          I’ll leave it to others to debate the first one, but the second isn’t true. Computer modeling is incapable of accounting for phenomenon before they’re discovered in the real world and programmed into the model. So the computer can develop beautiful mathematical hypotheses about physics, most of which are wrong, but it will have to wait for boring old physical tests to figure out which ones are correct.

          For example, the aeroelastic flutter that destroyed the Tacoma Narrows bridge didn’t show up in the (pencil and paper) models used to design it, because the engineers didn’t realize it could happen. So an in-silico linear algebra model of a bridge won’t dump the wind load on the girders when they reach a certain deflection unless the model is specifically programmed to dump the load, and this isn’t apparent from inside the computer. The only reason we program computers to do it now (or, more specifically, engineers develop mathematical models that do this, and then programmers build them into design software) is because we watched a bridge gallop around in the real world.

          So, no, Robot Jesus isn’t going to rapture people into the Machine soon after intelligence is developed; the computer might be able to figure out several possible ways that brains work, but regular boring ol’ lab work, the kind that’s limited by the supply of lab workers and the time necessary to grow rats, will sharply limit the advance because the computer can’t figure out if it’s correct without physical testing.

          • Well... says:

            That explanation seems obvious now that I’ve read it, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen it elsewhere. To recap: our technological advancement doesn’t happen by sitting around thinking up new things or even modeling them, we also have to try things in the real world and learn from mistakes. Computers, at best, can only sit around thinking and modeling, so that’s as far as they’ll get.

            Makes sense to me. But doesn’t the singularity-will-happen-and-turn-us-into-paperclips argument also include something about computers commandeering hardware?

          • CatCube says:

            A lot of the problem is that right now, and for the foreseeable future, commandeering hardware doesn’t really get you far. To keep going on with the bridge example, sure, maybe the computer suborns a milling machine or a 3d printer to make a model of a bridge, but how does it move that model into a civil engineering lab many miles away, and then install and run all of the strain gages, load cells, load cylinders, etc.?

            I’d go further, but XKCD already did a good analysis of this problem: https://what-if.xkcd.com/5/

          • Well... says:

            I guess, if the computer is hooked up to other computers via some kind of network, those computers all work together to commandeer what they need?

            I’m beyond my depth here already, but I can sort of imagine the argument.

          • Loquat says:

            To continue with the bridge example:

            At present, to build a bridge, you need a lot of heavy construction equipment and building materials. AFAIK the necessary equipment is not currently 100% automated – you still need human operators who know what they’re doing. Same goes for the acquisition of the materials – they need to be gotten from somewhere, and almost certainly go through one or more processing steps between the original raw harvesting and delivery to your bridge site, and pretty much all of those steps currently require human operators as well.

            TL;DR – there’s a whole lot of automation that would need to happen for computers to effectively commandeer everything.

          • CatCube says:

            @Loquat

            To be fair to Well…, I was only discussing the computer doing research, that is, it only needs to do work with a scale model of a bridge, which is a much more tractable problem. I think it’s still beyond what the Internet Incarnate can handle without human assistance.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            but how does it move that model into a civil engineering lab many miles away, and then install and run all of the strain gages, load cells, load cylinders, etc.?

            Humans are already designing and operating simplistic remote labs.

          • Well... says:

            @Loquat: Isn’t the automization of everything + IoT part of the narrative though? Like, the machinery that acquires the materials and hauls it and installs it, even if right now it just helps humans do that stuff, could theoretically be equipped with powerful- and connected-enough computers to upgrade to some post-singularity superbrain and then just build the experimental bridge on their own.

            Not that I believe this will occur, mind you. Just that this is supposed to be how the paperclipping process happens.

          • Reasoner says:

            an arbitrarily smart computer can make arbitrary advances, that is, raw thinking power is the only rate-limiting step in the advance of knowledge.

            Ability to achieve arbitrary advances is not necessary for a smart computer to achieve world domination. Achieving world domination is a matter of finding the weakest link.

            “Humans will never be able to achieve dominance over gorillas! That would require humans to do experiments!”

          • CatCube says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Humans are already designing and operating simplistic remote labs.

            I’m aware of that. Remote data collection is very robust. I can log on to a website right now that is gathering data from 64 strain gages at 10-s intervals for a lock gate I’m working with. But those gages were placed by a human being crawling around on the structure. There is no robot in existence that our hypothetical intelligence could suborn to place them.

            I’m saying that physical experiments that our hypothetical God Intelligence would require to actually validate any hypothesis it generates will, with current technology, require a lot of human beings to actually set up and conduct. I maintain that this step will limit any proposed rapid advance, since there are likely to be many possible hypotheses for poorly-understood physical phenomena (like much of our current biological understanding) and computer modeling cannot choose between them, since all of them are merely math.

            @Reasoner

            You’re going to have to articulate this “weakest link” that will allow world conquest through pure sweet reason alone, since merely writing those words doesn’t imply that such a weakest link exists.

            I’m not sure what you’re trying to say with the gorilla thing. Ancient humans may not have required the scientific method to conquer gorillas, but a computer attempting to advance on the current state of the art will have to conduct some experiments. Like I said before, a theoretical model requires validation in the real world.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            So an in-silico linear algebra model of a bridge won’t dump the wind load on the girders when they reach a certain deflection unless the model is specifically programmed to dump the load

            But if you built a sufficiently sophisticated model of the physical forces and components themselves? So the flutter is an emergent property of the underlying equations describing the bridge, it’s just that the equations used were simplified in a way which assumed away that possibility?

            Maybe I’m just assuming away your objection, or maybe I’m calling for a computer with more bits than atoms in the known universe or something, but it doesn’t feel insoluble once you move past just teaching the computer to use your equations, but faster…

          • Aapje says:

            @Reasoner

            Computers also have weak links and humans can be expected to target those.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The argument that rapid increase of intelligence isn’t the same thing as rapid increase of knowledge is pretty strong.

            I don’t know how much good a GAI could get from finding correlations in existing knowledge that people haven’t noticed.

            I’m not sure to what extent a GAI could get people to go along with its projects just by pretending to be other people and/or a normal human organization. Probably a fairly large extent, but I’m not sure how much it adds to the threat.

          • John Schilling says:

            or maybe I’m calling for a computer with more bits than atoms in the known universe or something

            This, pretty much. Computer simulations that don’t involve more bits than atoms in the known universe, instead involve educated guesses as to which 99.9999+% of reality will be ignored and/or replaced with fudge factors. These guesses can’t be based on analytic proof because that takes you back to more-bits-than-atoms territory. So some of them will turn out to be wrong, and the models won’t match reality.

            If you validate the models, by comparing them to real-world experiments, then you can refine your guesses and your fudge factors until you have a useful model. But it’s only useful within the range of validation, because that’s where the fudge factors are properly calibrated and that’s where you know that the parts of reality you ignored don’t really matter. To do anything new, there is no substitute for experiment.

            So if Boeing wants to build another subsonic airliner, they’ve got validated structural and fluid dynamics codes that can do most of that work in silicon. If they want to build an SST, they’re going to need a lot of wind tunnel time. And if Skynet wants to Take Over the World, I’m pretty sure there aren’t any validated codes for evaluating world conquest strategies.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @CatCube

            I’m saying that physical experiments that our hypothetical God Intelligence would require to actually validate any hypothesis it generates will, with current technology, require a lot of human beings to actually set up and conduct. I maintain that this step will limit any proposed rapid advance, since there are likely to be many possible hypotheses for poorly-understood physical phenomena (like much of our current biological understanding) and computer modeling cannot choose between them, since all of them are merely math.

            I agree with you on the raw science front (and I frankly think the singularity is a wish-fulfillment fantasy), but this is merely a reason for the AI to use its ‘brainpower’ and Bitcoin to develop faster hypothesis testing robotics. And to specialize in limited areas of science (with respect to research outputs, not information inputs).

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          CatCube points out that even “very intelligent” AI will have a difficult time taking over the world. I agree with his arguments.

          But I also just don’t agree with the idea that we’ll get superintelligent AI anytime soon. And I don’t care what “many smart people with relevant expertise” think, because it turns out that trying to predict decades of advances in a field is not something you can reason through or simulate out in your head, no matter how smart you are. Especially you can’t reason through “how we’re going to power through unknown unknowns like how intelligence really works.”

          What you can do is look at the history of how people predict advances in fields. And it turns out that what they always, always, always do, and it’s always, always, always wrong, is they predict quick extrapolations of the current technologies to absurdly extreme levels with no detours along the way.

          2001: A Space Odyssey was reasonable near-future science fiction when it was written in 1967 or so. It featured a manned mission to Saturn with an AI in 2001. People were like, “Yeah, 35 years or so, pretty much checks out.”

          Obviously insert your own joke about fusion being the technology of the future. In Heinlein’s The Door into Summer, written in 1957, he predicts general-purpose robots in the early 1970’s, and essentially roombas (I think better than we actually have roombas) in the late 1960’s.

          The Singularity itself was popularized by Vernor Vinge in 1983. That was about 35 years ago, guys. If technology has been advancing exponentially since 1983, then… it sure doesn’t seem obvious to me.

          The whole “technology is advancing exponentially” meme was very popular in the science fiction of my youth. The technological singularity is a manifestation of that same belief. It’s been spectacularly wrong for like 50 years at this point. It’s not getting any more plausible.

          • sconn says:

            I hear that back in the 70’s a team of grad students was put in charge of “teaching the computers to be able to speak and understand natural speech.” They thought it would take five years. LOL.

            Then again, back in the 50’s no one predicted the internet *at all,* so it’s important to remember that technology progresses in directions other than you expected as well.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Exactly. The reason we can’t predict the world in 100 years has nothing to do with ultra-intelligence becoming godlike, and everything to do with our inability to predict 100 years of sharp right turns coming out of nowhere that nobody even thought to think about.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            >The whole “technology is advancing exponentially” meme was very popular in the science fiction of my youth. The technological singularity is a manifestation of that same belief.

            This line of reasoning has an obvious flaw: the exponential function has no singularities.

          • 1soru1 says:

            The singularity is a metaphor for a real thing that doesn’t have the literal properties that a mathematical singularity does.

            What it actually represents is the pragmatic impossibility of writing and selling commercially-viable long-form written fiction within the SF genre, but set in a scientifically-plausible future.

            Given that it has been nearly 30 years since the last time any American succeeded in doing so (Islands in the Net came out in 1989), it’s unsurprising people have mostly given up on trying.

            _The Martian_ is the exception that ‘proves’ the rule, by not being a work of genre SF.

          • engleberg says:

            John Sandford’s Saturn Race came out last year. Great book, as good as the old Niven/Pournelle’s in the 1980s.

            Just because Tor has no SF chops doesn’t mean the chops aren’t out there.

          • John Schilling says:

            _The Martian_ is the exception that ‘proves’ the rule, by not being a work of genre SF.

            In what sense is “The Martian” not a work of genre SF?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My impression is lots of things from global warming can still get really bad within the next 100 years. At the very least lots of people will die and we’ll lose cool things like Venice. As for the really bad outcomes, I would guess we’re not going to activate any feedback loops that turn our planet into Venus II before that time, but I’d hate to have to stake civilization on it.

      • keranih says:

        My problem with the “things will get really bad within 100 years, therefore we must do X” line of reasoning is that very few people are promoting steps that will actually change the rate of warming to the point of “in 100 years, things won’t get as bad”.

        (For instance, people invested in climate change continue (for the most part) to refuse to push for more nuclear power plants.)

        Secondly, there’s quite a bit of room between “lose civilization” and “lots of people die.” And we *are* going to lose Venice, no matter what we do, short of a large seawall and constantly running pumps.

        • Mary says:

          One notes that the more we spend on efforts that will have trivial effects, the less we will have to cope with the effects that they concede will happen even if we adhere to all their recommendations.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          Particularly bearing in mind that *everyone* is going to die.

      • My impression is lots of things from global warming can still get really bad within the next 100 years. At the very least lots of people will die and we’ll lose cool things like Venice.

        I don’t know enough about the situation of Venice and the cost of engineering projects to save it to judge where reality is between “we will lose Venice anyway” and “we can save Venice even with AGW,” but where do you get “lots of people will die”?

        One way of seeing the scale of SLR is by the effect on the coastline. The high end of the high emissions scenario projection from the fifth IPCC report for 2100 is about one meter. The rule of thumb for the U.S. Atlantic coast is that a foot of SLR shifts the coastline in by about a hundred feet. So we are talking, on average, of shifting the coastline by about a hundred meters in the most extreme version of the IPCC projection. That’s invisibly small on a geographical scale. There are places where it will be more, of course, and places where it will be less. And that’s assuming no diking.

        Warming means hotter summers, which will increase mortality, ceteris paribus. It also means milder winters, which will decrease mortality. I can see two reasons to expect the latter effect to be larger than the former, none to expect it the other way.

        CO2 increase increases crop yields–that’s one of the elements of the change we can be most certain of, since it’s the CO2 increase that drives the warming and the effect of CO2 fertilization has been established by multiple experiments for a long time. Climate change might have adverse effects in other ways, but that seems quite unclear–the IPCC retracted the claim of increased drought in the latest report.

        I can see arguments for believing that climate change might result in lots more people dying–or lots fewer. But where do you get “At the very least lots of people will die”?

        • Charles F says:

          Warming means hotter summers, which will increase mortality, ceteris paribus. It also means milder winters, which will decrease mortality. I can see two reasons to expect the latter effect to be larger than the former, none to expect it the other way.

          One reason the increase in heat deaths might be larger than the decrease in cold deaths is there are more deaths due to heat. So I would expect “hotter” to be the more dangerous direction to move in. What are the reasons it would go the other way?

          • tscharf says:

            I don’t think this is accurate. Currently almost everything I have read shows cold kills many more people than heat.

            Future deaths are uncertain but most people think it will be less overall. Cold weather deaths will be reduced and heat wave deaths can be reduced with air conditioning, etc. There is some question about whether increased disease might be a factor but the trend in these diseases is downward over the 20th century while it has been warming.

          • @Charles F:

            Your link is to figures for the U.S. The Lancet article that tscharf links to is for the world.

            But I’m dubious about the U.S. figures. The page you link to doesn’t explain how it generates its numbers or what they represent. Look at U.S. mortality rates by month The high is in January, the low in August.

          • Charles F says:

            Eh, I’m probably wrong about this.

            But, if I were going to argue about this, I’d start by saying that those US death rates include right at the start a not-really-cold-related explanation for the extra deaths in colder months, namely influenza. (though this study says milder winters actually *do* mean less flu except in Britain.)

            And I think the Lancet data must be being very generous when it decides what to call a death due to non-optimal temperatures. If we look at the top causes of death according to the WHO we can see that a cause of 7% of all deaths would place third on that list. This could mean there are a lot of subtle ways cold causes people to die indirectly, but I can’t see their methods so I don’t know.

            And in the articles you link, it starts by saying that it’s going against a common and hopefully somewhat well-supported position that heat kills more people, and finding that, no, it’s a factor of 20 in the other direction. It’s possible, but fishy. It’s got to have something to do with different definitions.

            It does seem off to me, just because cold has always been way easier to prepare for than heat. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are sneaky and it’s hard for me to take a threat as amenable to proper clothing as cold weather seriously. Can you give me a reason to take the idea that A/C is an important factor in reducing heat deaths seriously? Do people really die of heat-related causes indoors, with access to shade and water? Or is the idea to roll out A/C to third-world communities who don’t have plumbing?

            In terms of what that all means for the changes a warmer climate would bring, it looks like the cold deaths averted would probably outweigh the heat deaths added, but I would want to look into what the more direct causes were for cold deaths, in case some of them might not be very affected by a shift of a couple degrees, if your rainy months happen to be your cold months, making them warmer might still keep road conditions bad and people indoors. (Obviously there are unknowns on the heat side too, and I’m sure given enough time I could make either side’s unknowns look bigger depending on my bias, so I’ll just stop here.)

            And I’m still interested in reason number two why the cold side would result in the larger difference. Assuming reason number one is just that it was the one with the larger starting number.

          • A further point on the cold vs heat mortality. AGW tends to raise temperatures more in cold times and places than in hot, due to the interaction with water vapor, which is also a greenhouse gas. The more of one greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, the less the effect of adding another–you can’t block more than 100% of the long wave radiation coming up. The colder it is the less water vapor is in the air.

            I got that point from something Freeman Dyson wrote, and I think it is correct.

            Raising temperatures when it’s hot is generally a bad thing, when it’s cold generally a good thing, so that is a way in which AGW is biased in our favor.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The more of one greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, the less the effect of adding another–you can’t block more than 100% of the long wave radiation coming up.

            I had long been under the impression that this was actually false, so I checked again. I now think this is still mostly true, and false in a way that can be misleading, and checking this proved illuminating enough for me to share.

            Consider a graph of which gasses absorb which wavelengths, particularly the section for 10-70 micrometers. Water vapor absorbs most of that. CO2’s largest absorption band spans a section that appears roughly half covered by water vapor already.

            Conclusion: the more water vapor there is, the less total radiation will be absorbed by CO2. However, the more water vapor there is, the greater an increase in CO2 will have on the percentage of remaining radiation absorbed. This is the way in which I felt the above claim was false. It’s not really false – that overlap between CO2 and water vapor does exist.

            This could still be important. Suppose we had a granary full of corn. We want as much of that corn to be good as possible. But gremlins inevitably come in and spoil most of it. We’re living off the rest. We can’t stop the gremlins. However, there’s also the village kids who like to jump into the granary from time to time, and they cause a bit more of it to spoil. We can stop the kids from doing that as often. The town spinster says we ought to, because even though the gremlins spoil the most corn by far, they aren’t as controllable as our kids, and they could make the difference.

            That said, if someone has reason to believe we could mitigate the gremlin problem as easily as the kid problem, then the shoe’s on the other foot. Alternately, if gremlins ebb and flow, and a normal uptick in gremlin infestation swamps whatever the kids are doing, then it also makes sense to not spend so much energy on controlling the kids (and instead, say, look into making ourselves more adaptable to fluctuating corn supply).

            Meanwhile, we’d also want to know how much of each wavelength is being emitted by the sun. Top graph appears to show that, but I think it’s actually showing what’s *not* absorbed, and by percentage. I’m looking for absolute volume of incoming radiation, regardless of what happens to it. If most of it came in at 15-20, for instance, then CO2 would be a really big deal. However, that’s deep in the infrared – the sun does emit that, but emits much, much more at visible and UV wavelengths – neither of which is affected much by either gas (Rayleigh scattering picks up a fair bit of UV, and that’s most of the effect).

            This all gives me the strong impression that the gas absorption issue mostly involves marginal effects (which might arguably still be significant – human life exists in an arguably marginal condition).

          • tscharf says:

            I’m not an expert in this area, but my understanding is most heat related deaths are cardiac related and basically pushes already sick people over the edge. Healthy people generally don’t die in heat waves.

            For the future heat waves will be better forecasted and communicated. Wealthier nations suffer fewer extreme related deaths for a lot of reasons, and if the future is wealthier then we should be better prepared. For example in FL high school football has mandatory water breaks now when conditions warrant it.

            As with all things, one can construct a model to determine any result one wanted. I always find it best to extrapolate from current trends first as a baseline.

          • Future deaths are uncertain but most people think it will be less overall. Cold weather deaths will be reduced and heat wave deaths can be reduced with air conditioning, etc. There is some question about whether increased disease might be a factor but the trend in these diseases is downward over the 20th century while it has been warming.

            Third world? Famine? Migration? War?

          • Third world? Famine?

            Modern famines are practically always political–either due to policies of the ruling government (Ukraine famine under Stalin, Great Leap Forward under Mao) or due to a conflict where one side is keeping food from reaching the other (Biafran civil war). The world has gotten a lot richer over the past century.

            Further, why would you expect increased CO2 to cause famines? The one effect we can be sure of is CO2 fertilization, which gives about a 30% increase in yield for a doubling in CO2 concentration for C3 crops, which most but not all food crops are, a smaller increase for C4. The IPCC claimed a link with drought in the fourth report, retracted the claim in the fifth.

            As best I can tell, the famine talk is based on guesses about indirect effects of AGW. They could be right–changing climate changes various things relevant to agriculture. But why would you expect them to be? People currently grow crops across a very wide range of climates.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            On the margin, AGW puts pressure on political systems, leading to more political strife.

            You can’t dismiss famine and war as “merely” political in that context.

          • @HBC

            Thanks. Politics isn’t going to suddenly magically get better, so the kind of stressors that are known t cause war and famine, in conjunction with politics, will do so again.

            @David

            The countries least likely to benefit from GW are the hottest ones , the ones that are already maxed out. If there were a wonder crop you could grow in the Sahara, people would be growing it. The Co2 fertilisation thing also has a ceiling, which we are close to. We are facing difficult conditions in countries which are already unstable,already highly populated, and already populated with young men.

          • Controls Freak says:

            On the margin, AGW puts pressure on political systems, leading to more political strife.

            This is the type of throwaway statement that makes me scream out, “How in bloody hell do you know that?!” I mean, sure, you can say it. I can say the opposite. “On the margin, AGW alleviates pressure on political systems, leading to less political strife.” Without an extremely good model of political systems (which is valid on the fast timescales which political systems evolve and also valid at pretty far future timesteps), how can you possibly compute such a thing?!

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Controls Freak

            I think that it’s at least a reasonable first approximation to assume that changes in external factors -> political systems needing to respond. Unless the system though some weird fluke is currently better tuned for a post-AGW world than the current one.

            It’s not a data-driven or computed view, but it’s hardly an asspull. “Political systems prefer ossification” is not an unreasonable prior to hold and “change, being the opposite of ossification, causes stress to political systems” logically derives from it.

            It is far from a nuanced axiom, and could very well lead to an incorrect conclusion in this instance, but I dispute that it warrants apoplexy.

          • Controls Freak says:

            changes in external factors -> political systems needing to respond

            Like Sam Cooke say, change gon’ come nephew. -Snoop Dogg

            Improvements in technology can likewise be considered a change in external factors. Political systems need to respond to them. Can we immediately conclude that, on the margin, technological improvement puts pressure on political systems, leading to more political strife?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Controls Freak:
            To a first order approximation, yes, we can say that.

            This does not mean that technology is net negative, far from it.

          • Controls Freak says:

            To a first order approximation, yes, we can say that.

            Why?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Because technological change (roughly) always has losers. It has a re-ordering effect on the social pyramid.

          • tscharf says:

            Are we to assume that global cooling would have made all these things better and we just got unlucky that the change is in the wrong direction?

          • Controls Freak says:

            It sounds like you’re expressing a combination of two ideas: 1) The social pyramid is a zero-sum game, and thus 2) Pareto improvements probably don’t exist.

            Is that correct? If so, I’m not sure why you’re expressing the particular, “Climate change probably isn’t a Pareto improvement,” instead of just saying, “Pareto improvements probably don’t exist.” More importantly, I don’t see why you tried expressing this in terms of “pressure on political systems” and “political strife”. Those things seem to be something else than what you’re arguing for here. I don’t see any conclusion, “…and therefore, pressure and political strife.” I see a really banal tautology: “Assuming that Pareto improvements probably don’t exist, X probably isn’t a Pareto improvement.”

            If I’m missing something, I’m going to have to ask you to spell out the details. I know I’m a bit too used to formal proofs, but I really don’t think I’m asking for that. I really just think there are some pretty big unexplained gaps in the chain of reasoning that I’m seeing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Controls Freak:
            David Friedman claimed that famines could not be the result of any changes in climate patterns as a result of AGW because all famines today are really the result of political strife. I merely pointed out that this chain of logic is faulty.

            Changes brought on by climate change will, on the margin, lead to political strife. This will be especially true where local food scarcity is created or amplified, irrespective of whether food is abundant enough to theoretically prevent famine world wide.

          • And we have evidence of ancient cultures that were wiped out completely by forms of climate change.

          • @ControlsFreak

            This is the type of throwaway statement that makes me scream out, “How in bloody hell do you know that?!”

            Like this:

            The countries least likely to benefit from GW are the hottest ones (africa and the middle east).

            ,…the ones that are already maxed out. If there were a wonder crop you could grow in the Sahara, people would be growing it. (GW will increase temps, increasing temps will increase desertification, desertification will reduce food supplies).

            the A&ME countries that will be affected are already politically unstable,already highly populated, and already highly populated with young men.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @HBC

            David Friedman claimed that famines could not be the result of any changes in climate patterns as a result of AGW because all famines today are really the result of political strife.

            That doesn’t fix the faulty chain of logic you used. You went through some weird tautological route that could equivalently be used to say, “On the margin (to a first order approximation), HBC’s comments on SSC puts pressure on political systems, leading to more political strife.”

            local food scarcity is created or amplified, irrespective of whether food is abundant enough to theoretically prevent famine world wide.

            I can get way more on board with claims like this. That said, what David Friedman said is actually really important at this stage. Can climate change actually be the proximate cause of local food scarcity, or is modern technology good enough at producing/distributing food that the proximate cause will instead be the faster-timescale political dynamics? If one can plausibly believe the latter, then we’re back to the question of how you could possibly model climate change’s affect on these political systems?

            @1Z

            the A&ME countries that will be affected are already politically unstable,already highly populated, and already highly populated with young men.

            What does their political state look like in 2060? If you find it easier, you can first estimate this in the case without climate change. Also, please provide a description of the dynamics of their political system that is valid in 2060. (I’ll allow you to reference the literature here. Something like DICE would be a good example of someone trying (and failing miserably) to do this type of really complicated modeling for economic systems instead of political systems.)

          • rlms says:

            @Controls Freak
            You seen to be demanding a complete model of the world’s political system. That is both unreasonable, and unnecessary to make predictions. I can’t tell you who’ll be US president in 2060; I can’t even tell you which countries will be in the EU or even whether it will still exist; and I have no idea what North Korea will look like. But given that the Middle East has been an unstable mess since at least the fall of the Ottoman empire, and there is no sign that this will change any time soon, I’m going to predict it will still be a mess in 2060.

          • how you could possibly model climate change’s affect on these political systems?

            Holding them constant is bad enough.

            As for the rest:

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/14/beware-isolated-demands-for-rigor/

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Controls Freak

            See this is much more constructive 🙂 I don’t know enough game theory to properly fit this in with your suggestions, but fwiw my model is that political systems looove local minima for their problems. Various effects (like technology) can shove them toward a globally lower position but it requires an intermediate increase in strife to get there.

          • tscharf says:

            It’s been warming for a 100 years. Examine the trends in agriculture, yields, etc. Here’s just one example, all the others are similar.

            Average Corn Yields since 1850

            Corn yields are up 600% since AGW started with about 1C of warming (and actually accelerating). A theory that states another 1C of warming will cause widespread famine and decreased food supply is completely counter to the evidence. Agriculture technology effects are far greater than anything climate change does, and it is quite unclear that climate change doesn’t actually improve the situation.

            IPCC AR5:
            “In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century due to lack of direct observations, geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. Based on updated studies, AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated. However, it is likely that the frequency and intensity of drought has increased in the Mediterranean and West Africa and decreased in central North America and north-west Australia since 1950”

          • Controls Freak says:

            @rlms

            You seen to be demanding a complete model of the world’s political system.

            You’re predicting a set of coupled, timescale-separated dynamical systems. I’m pointing out that you’re probably doing it the wrong way round in your head. We have possible ways to do some things without complete models, but you’ve picked one that doesn’t work.

            That is both unreasonable, and unnecessary to make predictions.

            For full disclosure, this is literally the field in which I have a terminal degree. The basic, first graduate course citation for the remainder of this comment is Khalil’s book. He was the first one to really lay down good theory for timescale-separated systems.

            @1Z

            Holding them constant is bad enough.

            Aha! You are doing them the wrong way round! I thought so. You see, the first thing you learn about timescale-separated, coupled systems is that you let the fast system converge first, then take a small step forward in the slow system. You’re holding the fast system constant, taking a huge leap in the slow system, and then saying, “Wouldn’t that be terrible for the fast system!”

            Since my degrees are from aerospace departments, I like to use aircraft as an analogy. They have timescale-separated, coupled dynamics (orientation/velocity dynamics are fast; fuel consumption dynamics are slow; position dynamics depend). What you’re doing is akin to saying, “By the end of the flight, we’ll have consumed a lot of fuel. That will change the weight (and more importantly, the distribution of weight) of the aircraft. If we hold the orientation dynamics constant and then apply this big change, it could be problematic.” Sure. That’s true. I can do that in my flight simulator. Low and behold, after the sudden change, my orientation gets kicked around, my velocity is nowhere near the desired value of the appropriate lift/drag quantity, and I’m certainly not at the right altitude for efficient operation. I can even make the fast dynamics go unstable if I do this type of thing! (I can make the velocity and orientation dynamics each go unstable, using different mechanisms!) It should be obvious that this type of analysis is simply doing it the wrong way round.

            Conversely, I have much fewer problems with doing the other problem (predicting the slow system). With an aircraft, you must assume that the pilot is not an idiot who will crash the plane into the ground (and this is an assumption). But the point is that you can make some decent bounding assumptions on how much throttle she will apply through the course of the flight (and it’s important that we can map this down to something like one output variable). Since we can show that the slow dynamics are insensitive to small perturbations in throttle, we can map out a range of possible fuel usage predictions. But note how it’s really important that we’re just predicting fuel usage. If you tried to walk down this path and say, “Therefore, the pilot will be in a steep climb,” or something else about the fast dynamics, you’d just be blowing smoke.

            (Instead, you can do well to make assumptions on fast-system dynamics, justify those assumptions (which we can usually do for aircraft), and proceed in the theoretically-defensible fashion. DICE was an attempt to do this for the coupled climate/economic system. The only problem is that their assumptions on the fast system were bloody stupid and completely unsupportable.)

            Similarly, climate dynamics are relatively insensitive to small perturbations in emissions (which we can decently collapse into a one-dimensional, or at the very least, a low-dimensional output variable). Assuming that we don’t nuke the planet or otherwise create an emission trajectory completely outside of the domain of consideration, we can construct a range of scenarios and see how the slow system responds. As such, I have very little problem with the IPCC predictions on climate. It’s when people start doing stupid things like trying to predict fast-timescale economic/political systems based on a slow-timescale input that I get upset.

            Since this comment isn’t quite past absurdly long yet, I’ll include a recent news example. I recall various stories about the danger posed by the Mosul dam collapsing – millions of deaths! However, someone pointed out that if the dam collapsed, it would take days for the water to reach the city, and the longest distance someone might have to walk to reach safe ground would take a few hours, max. Yes, the particular timescales involved in this problem still result in lots of damage and bad things happening (just not millions of immediate deaths by water), but it still serves to illustrate a particularly common failure to think fourth-dimensionally!

            As I hope is now clear, this is not an isolated demand for rigor. It’s the exact level of rigor that is demanded by my background, and that which I apply as consistently as I can to timescale-separated, coupled dynamical systems. The reason why we can do the correct calculation for an aircraft is that we have a good model of the fast dynamics (with good assumptions on pilot behavior and such), which is not only accurate at each timestep we’re considering – it’s also suitably parametrized in terms of the state of the slow dynamics. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out when people make bloody stupid assumptions which trash the validity of the entire thought (whether it is the DICE assumptions on economic systems, holding political systems constant, or assuming that everyone is just going to sit on their hands in Mosul waiting to be drowned by floodwaters). I mean, it’s even worse here, because you’re starting off by disclaiming any dynamical political model, and then simply asserting that the obvious dynamical political model means that climate change -> strife… trivially! It boggles the mind!

          • (GW will increase temps, increasing temps will increase desertification, desertification will reduce food supplies)

            Increased CO2 concentration not only increases crop yield, it reduces water requirements for crops, because the plants don’t have to pass as much air through the leaves to get the CO2 they need, so lose less water to evaporation. Increased CO2 over recent decades seems to be associated with a general greening of the planet–the opposite of your claim.

            Or in other words, I think the situation is much more complicated than you imagine, with multiple effects of change, often in opposite directions.

          • Skivverus says:

            If there were a wonder crop you could grow in the Sahara, people would be growing it.

            Kinda makes you wonder if one could try, say, genetically engineering/crossbreeding cacti (say, prickly pears; I seem to recall those being edible) to be less spiny/tastier/faster-growing.
            Or doing genetic engineering on, say, tomatoes so that they can use saltwater irrigation rather than fresh.

          • rlms says:

            @Controls Freak
            I’m well aware of the correct and incorrect way to simulate coupled, timescale-separated dynamical systems, from having this argument with you at least once before! I’m sure you are right about the technicalities, I think you are wrong about the applicability. You say it’s not possible to accurately predict any aspect of political systems, but then how can it be the case that if I’d said “in 2017, the Middle East will still be a mess” 50 years ago I would have been correct? And how do you define the timescale of your systems anyway? Why can’t I say that the environment is a fast system, with all those gases whirling about every second, and politics is a slow system, because there are only elections every 4 years?

          • tscharf says:

            If you examine research on AGW effects on agriculture and food supply they typically say things like “the rate of food supply increase will be slowed by AGW”, not that the food supply will diminish overall.

            There may be localized supply disruptions and possibly those will increase with AGW but the current trend is the opposite. This Population Bomb mentality was proven wrong so far but its best not to test that at 20B people.

          • Controls Freak says:

            You say it’s not possible to accurately predict any aspect of political systems

            I didn’t say that. It’s probably extremely difficult to do in general, but I’m open to letting attempts to model specific aspects convince me (…and then convince me that those aspects are relevant for the coupled climate system). “Everything is going to stay constant, honest guize,” isn’t very convincing.

            how can it be the case that if I’d said “in 2017, the Middle East will still be a mess” 50 years ago I would have been correct?

            Sometimes people guess correctly? I mean, we don’t have to revisit the underpinnings of the scientific revolution and ask, “But if you say astrology is false, then how come my astrologer could have said something 50 years ago that is now correct?”

            how do you define the timescale of your systems anyway?

            This is tricky, actually. A tiny snippet of my comment above alluded to this. I mentioned that position dynamics depend. Assumptions will matter, and frankly (and unfortunately) there aren’t always super hard rules here. In strict mathematical theory, people derive asymptotic error terms which shrink as the timescales get further apart. If the timescales get closer together, the error term grows, and we end up in trouble, because we have to simulate both systems simultaneously with pretty high fidelity. The fact that climate systems are much slower and relatively immune to small perturbations in input is important to believing climate models. So…

            Why can’t I say that the environment is a fast system, with all those gases whirling about every second, and politics is a slow system, because there are only elections every 4 years?

            …if we do this, I’m going to throw out IPCC projections as bunk. Anyway, like I had mentioned, there is some artistry here to make a convincing argument. I’m not a specialist in climate science, but I’ve come to believe the claim that climate is distinct from weather. Instead of starting from gasses whirling about every second, we can have our starting point at the geophysical model (which is a somewhat familiar starting point for me, given the bit of astrophysics I’ve taken). Major drivers of things like temperature are solar irradiance, albedo, heat capture mechanisms, etc. (adding in more complicated and detailed mechanisms as the climate science goes over my head). Specific gasses whirling about are super fast timescale and are averaged out (like individual molecules in a pot of boiling water or a 60Hz cycle on a tungsten light bulb filament).

            Now, strictly speaking, I don’t think we can map any of this work directly onto standard asymptotic results (like from Khalil), because we probably aren’t going to be able to put everything into the right vector form and tease out perfectly valid epsilon. That’s where the bit of artistry comes in. In cases like this, there’s not necessarily a single measure yet to authoritatively say, “Yes, this is absolutely timescale-separated.” In various cases, I’ve talked about (and have heard others in the community talk about) particulars like relative natural frequency, appeals to stereotyped motions (e.g., when someone wants to apply averaging to insect wing beats, they often talk about how many wing beats it takes for the animal to execute a yawing maneuver), or a few other (weirder) measures. Yea, it’s still sketchy sometimes, and there are a few cases in the literature where I say to myself, “I’m not sure averaging really applies here, but I can’t conclusively argue that it doesn’t, either.” So right off the bat, we don’t quite have an authoritative way to say that climate scientists are right to separate timescales; we just have a decently good sense that it’s probably working (and I haven’t seen anyone make a great attempt at an argument to the contrary).

            For an example of a scenario where I think economic systems aren’t necessarily timescale-separated from something climate-like, I usually refer to the Dust Bowl. It hit, wrecked havoc, and disappeared in less than a decade. That’s not a lot of time for people to move, change crops/technology/jobs, or implement large political solutions that can converge to an equilibrium within the time frame of the phenomenon. (The “good” news for this one is that there’s a lot less coupling – since it was such a short-term climate/weather thing, feedback from human behavior onto the climate/weather was weak. Another thing we need to trust IPCC-type climate modeling is that human emissions are sufficiently coupled to climate dynamics.)

            I think the more obvious ‘measures’ of timescale in the last paragraph point more toward economic indicators – people moving, changing jobs, developing technology, etc. I think one of the most obvious measures is that people currently change their behavior in this fashion much faster than any relevant timescale that climatologists work in. Heck, generations literally come into existence and die off faster than any relevant timescale that climatologists work in. I will admit that ‘political systems’ are kind of variable. A lot of political activity is driven by those economic changes, and I often view politics as generally pretty reactive to the issues of the day. There are some aspects which are longer timescale (developments in the Supreme Court are generally slower than elsewhere, for example).

            I tend to think I’m right that we can view it as primarily short-timescale (constitutional law may be slow, but it only took seventy years for someone to say, “Forget constitutional law entirely; we’re literally going to war with the rest of the country”), but I’ll admit that it’s a bit sketchy. I’ll just repeat that if we don’t do this, then we’re decently on our way to killing the validity of climate predictions. IPCC is running predictions out to 100 years, and even then, I’m not seeing anything that really maps as a natural frequency of the system… it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to get me to believe that political systems are so uncoupled from the timescale of economics systems and actually so exceedingly slow that we can view the climate system (with natural frequency > 100yrs) to be sufficiently slower.

          • rlms says:

            @Controls Freak
            Thanks for the substantial response! The part about timescales was very interesting. Just to clarify: my example where we view the climate as having a timescale of seconds was just a hypothetical, I don’t actually believe it.

            From your answer to my question about predicting a mess in the Middle East, it sounds like you believe that generally you can’t make accurate long-term predictions about political or economic systems, and any predictions that do come true are just lucky guesses. But it seems to me that there are lot of predictions I could make and reliably get right on the scale of decades, and even more if I were replaced with an expert.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’m really mushy on this. In part, it’s because we’re using mushy phrasing. Consider “a mess in the Middle East”? What, exactly, constitutes a “mess”? Can it be in any sub-region of the Middle East? How much of what? Most importantly, how does this statement map onto the two different timelines (w/mitigation and wo/mitigation)?

            I’m not going to say that it’s impossible to make long-term predictions. And I could see myself being more convinced of some specific predictions than others. I’m just not sure that this can gel into a coherent model that allows us to make the type of climate change related statements we’d like to make with any sort of sense for how to gauge its likely accuracy.

            The most well-known attempt to bring in experts and statistical tools is the Good Judgment Project (i.e., Superforecasters). To my knowledge, they try to word their predictions rather specifically, and they calibrate statistical estimates. Further, as far as I can tell, pretty much everything they test on is on the timescale of ones of years… and there are still reasonably substantial swings in the estimates. And while what they’re doing is cool, it feels kind of deep learning-y to me (if that makes any sense). Sure, there’s maybe some components that are doing something kind of resembling modeling, but it’s really a model-free approach (whereas most economics these days is model-based). I’m pretty skeeved out by that, and I’m definitely skeeved out by the idea of extending it past the domain in which it has been validated (because literally the only reason to believe that deep learning should work is that after you apply it to a problem, you see that it actually worked for your test cases… we have nothing even approaching a theoretical idea of robustness for these things). We may be on the cusp of turning a corner for work in these domains, but I don’t think we’re there yet.

            I’ve certainly seen work by authors in the distant past who made observations about psychology, biology, or whatever, and made predictions about future politics that have made me think, “Wow, that was pretty prescient.” But often, it’s in the middle of a bunch of totally inaccurate stuff. I don’t really have methods for picking out good models except hindsight.

            In sum, of the three systems we’ve talked about, I think the least-understood system is politics. I would be pretty open to developments that show multi-timescale behavior in political systems (in fact, that’s probably the case). I’m really not sure what the longest relevant timescale would turn out to be. Nevertheless, for the purposes of the instant discussion, I think this type of uncertainty should probably dissuade us from believing claims about how they couple with climate systems without a pretty substantial amount of justification. I really object to any framing that leads people to believing that these types of claims fall under the “Science Says” banner akin to how physical climate models do.

          • tscharf says:

            Too many black swans in politics.

          • Why can’t I say that the environment is a fast system, with all those gases whirling about every second

            Because the effects of climate change are very slow–sea level rise so far of about an inch a decade, warming of about a degree a century.

          • engleberg says:

            @Jaskologist- Dragon Fruit.

            Those are cool. Thanks.

          • rlms says:

            @DavidFriedman
            So? GDP changes pretty slowly too.

          • Corn yields are up 600% since AGW started

            Almost none of which is connected to CO2. Co2 effects are modest:-

            . A theory that states another 1C of warming will cause widespread famine and decreased food supply is completely counter to the evidence.

            To get a figure as low as 1C, we would have to do a lot more than we are doing now…

            By mid-century, scientists predict a further rise of 1.4-2.6C if carbon emissions continue to rise as they are today. If emissions were halted almost immediately and significant carbon was extracted from the atmosphere, the rise by mid-century would be 0.4-1.6C.

            ..so what kind of denialist are you?

            As such, I have very little problem with the IPCC predictions on climate.

            So what kind of denialist are you? The IPCC isn’t saying “it isn’t happening” orr “do nothing” or “it’s all a commie plot” or “it’s nett positive”.

            Because the effects of climate change are very slow–sea level rise so far of about an inch a decade, warming of about a degree a century.

            Feedback mechanisms can turn slow changes into fast ones.

          • Controls Freak says:

            As such, I have very little problem with the IPCC predictions on climate.

            So what kind of denialist are you? The IPCC isn’t saying “it isn’t happening” orr “do nothing” or “it’s all a commie plot” or “it’s nett positive”.

            Uh, did you bother to read any of my lengthy comments detailing exactly what things I think are supportable and what things are not supportable? To the extent that they’re predicting the slow climate system with range assumptions on a low-dimensional emissions input, I’m totally on-board with the IPCC. It’s when people start saying stupid things about economic/political systems that are coupled to climate that I get upset. I am not a lone voice in the wilderness on this (though they don’t quite realize the fundamental theoretical problem that underpins their complaints). That doesn’t make me a “denialist”. That makes me an academic who specializes in dynamical systems/control.

            Feedback mechanisms can turn slow changes into fast ones.

            This is true in theory. But we have approximately no reason to believe that it is the case here. Are you denying the IPCC predictions? Are you just saying that climate science is false?

          • ..stupid things about politcal systems..

            It has been pointed out that you can make reasonable predictions about political systems without having a numerical model.

            This is true in theory. But we have approximately no reason to believe that it is the case here.

            I was responding to David, who proposed a feedback mechanism, namely the way politics exacerbates famines.

          • tscharf says:

            ..so what kind of denialist are you?

            The kind that looks at the evidence beyond assertions at the Guardian and doesn’t think labeling people in a debate is a winning strategy.

            Here’s the global temperature trend.

            “further…1.4C to 2.6C by mid-century”. That statement was made in 2013. So we have 37 years for this to happen. Depending on how you choose start and end points the current trend is somewhere between 0.1C/decade to 0.2C/decade. Let’s call it 0.15.

            0.15C x 3.7 = +0.56C by 2050 current trend.

            So to get to the avg of 2.0C we need a rate of 2.0 / 3.7 = 0.54C per decade. The rate of warming needs to increase 3.6x from the current rate. Starting tomorrow. Perhaps it will happen, I doubt it. We will see what the future holds.

            They are using RCP8.5 for this estimate which is unrealistic. Part of the problem here is the sleight of hand in the Guardian with “further”. The model numbers actually start in 2000.

            As I mentioned the effects of agriculture technology far outweigh effects of AGW on the food supply. There is no reason to believe that is going to suddenly stop tomorrow. It’s very likely to get much better, not worse. People who make rash statements about food supply don’t understand the history of agriculture.

            Maybe worst case scenarios will be realized, but I don’t take media assertions at their word on this subject. The Guardian is one of the worst offenders.

          • Controls Freak says:

            It has been pointed out that you can make reasonable predictions about political systems without having a numerical model.

            I wrote a lengthy comment with a paragraph that started with:

            I’m not going to say that it’s impossible to make long-term predictions.

            I think you should try again.

            I was responding to David, who proposed a feedback mechanism, namely the way politics exacerbates famines.

            I read David as claiming that politics creates famines, not exacerbates them. Do you have a reason for me to believe that there is actually a feedback loop from some relevant climate variable?

            Going back to the aircraft analogy, I think David said something along the lines of, “Pilots initiate steep climbs.” Ok, it’s still true in general that feedback mechanisms can turn slow changes into fast ones, but I don’t see anything so far that implies, “Fuel usage creates steep climbs, and pilots exacerbate them.”

          • To get a figure as low as 1C, we would have to do a lot more than we are doing now…

            We don’t know that. The IPCC high emissions projection assumes a continued exponential increase in emissions. I’ve seen it argued that that is impossible, that by the end of the century it burns up more fossil fuel than currently exists to be extracted.

            I’m not sure if that is correct or not, but there are other reasons to regard that as a very uncertain prediction–rising prices of fossil fuels with resource depletion, falling cost of alternatives with technological progress in the relevant technologies, mainly solar and storage, perhaps nuclear.

            Further, climate sensitivity is very much an open question. If it turns out to be at the low end of estimates and if CO2 output fails to increase, perhaps falls, for reasons unrelated to concerns about global warming, we could be under one degree of warming by the end of the century.

            Or we might not–my point is that the estimates are quite uncertain.

            The IPCC isn’t saying … “it’s nett positive”.

            Insofar as the IPCC offers any estimate of the net effects, it’s that they are negative but small. See Figure 10.1 of the fifth report. For temperature increases of up to three degree C, the biggest estimated impact on welfare they show is the equivalent of the effect on welfare of a reduction in world income of less than three percent.

            Several of the estimates for 2-2.5° are about zero, which implies some probability that the net effect is positive.

            I’ve discussed on my blog reasons to think that estimates are biased towards overestimating negative effects, with some evidence with regard to Nordhaus’ work.

            I’m curious whether your view differs from mine: Given the current attitudes on AGW in the academic community within which people making such estimates work, do you think their work is more likely to be biased towards overestimating or underestimating negative effects?

            One of my favorite IPCC quotes:

            “Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.”

            How do those compare with the impression one gets from public talk about the perils of AGW?

        • rlms says:

          Not all coasts are the Eastern US one (notably, Bangladesh and the Netherlands have them too).

          • Obviously true–that happens to be the coast for which I have a number. It’s enough to show the order of magnitude of the effect–as I said, it will be more in some places, less in others.

            To see the effects more generally, take a look at the Flood Maps Page. It lets you set the level of sea level rise and see what is then below sea level anywhere in the world. At one meter, the shift in coastline is invisibly small almost everywhere unless you zoom in very close.

            Judging by my playing with the page, the most vulnerable coast is actually the Nile Delta.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          If people had more freedom to move, sea level rise would be less dangerous.

          Open borders (or relatively open borders) would probably be cheaper than trying to prevent global warming.

          • tscharf says:

            What are you talking about? Is there somewhere where people are being forced to stay in an exact same location for a 100 years? Beyond a couple sparsely populated very low lying islands and perhaps Bangladesh this argument makes no sense.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I was thinking about Bangladesh, but a fast search doesn’t turn up anything about the number of people plausibly at risk.

          • If you look at Bangaldesh on the flood maps page, the effect of one meter of SLR isn’t all that large. Obviously some people will have to move, assuming they don’t dike, but not a large fraction of the population.

            People routinely greatly exaggerate the scale of these effects. Here’s one of my favorite IPCC quotes:

            Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.

      • acrimonymous says:

        I’m not arguing about climate change, but I’m interested in the fact that people can get worked up over “losing cool things” due to global warming but are basically non-plussed over losing cool things due to, e.g., developers tearing down old homes piecemeal and replacing them with 10-story cement blocks. Another example: losing fisheries due to climate change is yet another reason we need to take immediate action, while losing fisheries due to overfishing is… problematic, but, meh, I’m not gonna get off my couch over it.

        To me, that is a weird aspect not only of the climate change conflict but of many aspects of culture wars.

        • quaelegit says:

          Is this common? My impression (mostly from living in the Bay Area, which probably biases this) is that there is a LOT of overlap between “cares a lot about global warming” and “anti-development” (and/or “anti-gentrification”)

          I’ve never lived anywhere that overfishing is a big local issue, but my impression is that “care a lot about global warming” also overlaps a lot with environmental conservation and “save the whales”.

        • but are basically non-plussed over losing cool things due to, e.g., developers tearing down old homes piecemeal and replacing them with 10-story cement blocks.

          In my experience, there are lots of regulatory barriers designed to prevent changes in “historic” districts. Back when we lived in Chicago, my wife had to spend quite a lot of time getting permission to have our fence repaired.

        • I know lots of people who are concerned about all things, but, hey,, another day another attack on straw environmentalists.

    • I think it is usually a mistake to worry about outcomes more than a century in the future. The reason isn’t just the singularity, which is possible but, in my view, far from certain. It’s that there are lots of ways in which the world could change drastically over that long a period, making any predictions very unreliable.

      As I put it when I gave a talk on my Future Imperfect at Google, global warming is a pretty wimpy catastrophe. I have three different ways of wiping out the human race faster than that.

    • Null Hypothesis says:

      I recall a lecture that compared a number of proposed plans. CO2 limitations and such. Al Gores, for instance, would cost an estimated $28 Trillion over the next century, and would delay global warming by 4 years. So we all burn to death and drown (lobster-style?) 104 years from now instead of 100, for the low low cost of $7 Trillion per year of delay. Maybe there are better plans, but unless they’re more efficient by two magnitudes, they’re not worth it.

      Singularity stuff aside, my opinion has generally been that while global warming is indeed a problem, the measures proposed would hardly slow it down, but would significantly hobble the economy. We should wait for more effective and efficient means to fight the problem.

      Science and technological development is a luxury, not a necessity. It’s why all the rich western countries do it while poorer subsistence countries work on surviving. Who are the people using electric cars and solar panels right now? The rich people that can afford to spend extra to help on a vague existential long-term crisis.

      So if we hobble our economy now, for pathetic gains, we’ll have less money and less strong of an economy later to spend resources are far more effective measures new technology will unlock. We’re on a treadmill moving backwards at 90% walking speed. But rather than exhaust ourselves to hold still or move forward at 10%, we should sit down, build an electric scooter, and actually stand a chance of getting off this ride.

      Or, you know, just solve the problem by building nuclear reactors. It’s been almost 50 years since Carter was putting solar collectors on roofs. 20 years ago Global warming really started getting important to worry about, and we were promised solar and wind were the future. 20 years later, and they’re meh. Just 10 years ago solar panels were starting to actually generate more energy than it cost to make them (outside of Arizona/California). And it’ll still be 20 years at least before batteries are economical enough to run any region on only solar and wind power. Then a 20 year implementation period for the rest of the country… etc. Oh, and Fusions totally going to come along and not only be possible, but feasible, and more commercially viable than fission to boot!

      Scenario 1) we have time and we don’t have good enough technology, so we should focus on keeping our economy strong and only start actively fighting global warming when we have tools to efficiently do so.

      Scenario 2) We don’t have time, which means we don’t have the 40 years to wait for a solar/wind/battery grid, so we should be building nuclear plants like crazy, and should have been for the last 20 years.

      The people screaming the most about global warming do not seem to go with either of these scenarios. Which is interesting.

      • 1soru1 says:

        The people screaming the most about global warming do not seem to go with either of these scenarios

        You seem to be establishing some elaborate pyschodrama where the reactions of of a carefully-curated subset of the loudest screamer on the ‘other side’ can be used as moral justification for a particular course of action that you support.

        In reality, many science-oriented environmentalists are pro-nuclear. Most others would accept it, but think solar is now going to be cheaper and faster.

        Wouldn’t it be better to look at the facts and make your own decision, or at least delegate someone you trust to do so?

        • Null Hypothesis says:

          Speaking in generalities, democrats believe in and care about global warming and believe it’s a problem worth addressing (as people should). But they, and ‘liberal’ environmental groups even more so, are significantly more anti-nuclear than independents or Republicans. Any basic poll by Gallop or someone else will demonstrate that fact. Many environmentalists are pro-nuclear, but the fact that it’s notable that they’re pro-nuclear illustrates the problem. It’s abnormal for an ‘environmentalist’ to be so.

          As far as “looking at facts and making your own decisions” that’s rather difficult for most people, as is finding someone to trust.

          Most analyses of Nuclear power are based on dangers or drawbacks of nuclear designs from 40 years ago, while wind and solar always get to be judged on what they promise 10 years in the future – half a century of technology and development and subsidies.

          Add on to that that most arguments for solar and wind being economical tend to deliberately obscure the reality. For instance, you will get quotes like:

          “Solar 4x cheaper than nuclear. New 1GW solar field bid for $1/watt”

          Which is quoting a bid in India with lower labor costs, and quoting capacity. Quoting capacity makes sense for comparing a nuclear and a coal plant, who both average generating 90%-95% of their capacity. But when solar and wind only generate 35% under ideal conditions, the metric of capacity loses utility. Put simply, if you want to replace a 2GW nuclear plant with solar energy, you’ll need to build 6GW+ of capacity, because you’re collecting all the electricity for the day only while the sun is up, and not always at the optimal Lahaina Noon in cool weather.

          And then you need the batteries to store that energy every single night, plus any stretches of days with dead winds and cloudy skies. Storing one day’s worth of emergency power (which should last 2-3 days of bad conditions since you still will generate some power to supplement) would require 50 million KWH (2GW x 24hours). If Telsa reaches their goal of $100/KWH, which they haven’t yet, that’s an extra $5 Billion in batteries on top of a $6 Billion plant in order to become still-not-quite-as-reliable as a baseload power system, and with a bigger carbon footprint.

          People look at places like Germany, that has been ramping up their proprotion of solar and wind. But while they’ve been increasing their use of transient sources beyond 20%, their CO2 emissions have stagnated. People look at Germany’s progress and extrapolate wildly that 50% and then 80% is right around the corner, when in fact things get harder the more transient power you add. To quote a wise man – the electrical grid is not a big truck. It’s not something you can just dump stuff on. It’s a series of tubes pushing power at a significant fraction of the speed of light, and it must be balanced. The more transients Germany uses, the more biofuel peaker plants they have to use, which undoes a lot of their CO2 displacement and isn’t all that nice for the forest land.

          There is very little honesty to be had in comparing power sources. The geographical limitations of solar and wind, the huge material costs, the lack of scale-ability, and the transient nature of the power while our society relies on base-load reliability – all of it is so often swept under the rug. And it’s done so deliberately, cheifly by liberal environmental groups.

          And that’s without getting into the deliberate political sabotage towards the nuclear industry, largely done by Democrats, and accounting for the wind and solar subsidies that are being spent mass-producing substandard energy generation equipment, instead of being focused in R&D to make the energy equipment profitable at scale on its own.

          Wouldn’t it be better to look at the facts and make your own decision, or at least delegate someone you trust to do so?

          It would be better, but people aren’t looking at the math, and they’re not listening to people who are trustworthy. When people on the Right are stuck in this situation about Global Warming, they’re called ‘science-deniers’, and rightly so. When the Left does the same thing about possible solutions to global warming, with science and numbers that are a lot more cut and dry, they get a pass.

          • 1soru1 says:

            I didn’t see anything in the above figures I want to argue with. If this was a game and I was playing it, I would be building a mix of solar and nuclear, with research focus on energy storage, with a backstop insurance policy of working out how to build a soletta.

            My disagreement is with those educated Republicans who have an inner quiet voice that would recommend something not that different. But then ignore it and proceed to vote for Trump in the belief he might just be lying when he says the whole thing is a Chinese conspiracy.

            If there is such a thing as objectively wrong in politics, they would seem to be it. Someone who was consciously lying about global warming would not burden the US taxpayer with billions of extra liabilities for flood damage on the grounds that it is not going to happen because global warming has been thoroughly debunked.

          • cassander says:

            My disagreement is with those educated Republicans who have an inner quiet voice that would recommend something not that different. But then ignore it and proceed to vote for Trump in the belief he might just be lying when he says the whole thing is a Chinese conspiracy.

            My disagreement is with democrats who are so wrapped up in their tribalism that they can’t be bothered to reach across the aisle to the people who do this.

            If there is such a thing as objectively wrong in politics, they would seem to be it. Someone who was consciously lying about global warming would not burden the US taxpayer with billions of extra liabilities for flood damage on the grounds that it is not going to happen because global warming has been thoroughly debunked.

            Or, you know, we could not give away free flood insurance. But that’s the sort of dangerous radicalism that leads the way to anarchy and racism!

          • Null Hypothesis says:

            @1soru1

            I’d agree with the same strategy. Hydro wherever I can manage it, nuclear wherever I can’t, and solar in all the sunny places for some extra energy when everyone’s awake. I think we’re personally on the same page on roughly how we’d like the energy grid to look.

            But as for “voting irresponsibly.” I don’t think it’s nearly so cut-and-dry as you paint it.

            If you’ll forgive me for saying so, while I think he’s going to do bunk-all to fight global warming, I think Trump is a better choice than Hillary on this one specific issue.

            Democrats talk about global warming plenty, but I don’t see them actually doing anything to solve it. They throw a lot of money and subsidies at Solar industry rather than R&D. And they get behind niche projects like natural gas so long as they’re small and ineffective. I recall big blue buses down in California proudly proclaiming: “We run on clean, safe natural gas.” It was once the liberal darling of possible new alternatives to coal and oil.

            Then fracking comes along and makes natural gas actually economically viable, and in under two decades its displaced half the coal plants in the country and turned back our CO2 footprint by 15 years. We refused to sign the Kyoto Protocols, but we were the closest to meeting their goals out of any large country because of fracking. Natural gas also lets us run cheap peaker-plants which is desperately necessary for backing up solar and wind operations without undoing all the good they do.

            So clearly fracking should be regarding as a great, wonderful transitional power source that buys us cleaner air and more time, and should be cheered by the left. Instead, it’s the new ‘most evil thing ever.’

            And nuclear power constantly gets sabotaged by Democrats as well. Carter shut down a massive, private, automated, NRC licensed, ready-to-go PUREX reprocessing plant that would drop nuclear waste mass to roughly ~3% of their currently still-negligible amounts. All the time and investment went to waste. Even though private reprocessing was re-made legal a decade or so later, banks got the message that funding anything nuclear means all your money can disappear into a black hole when a Democrat President comes to power. Good luck getting them to fund any private, NRC-regulated venture now.

            And then of course Obama went and shut-down Yucca Mountain, for again arbitrary non-technical reasons, as a favor to his good friend Harry Reid who campaigned on shutting down the site. Which again, was an effective campaign promise because Nevada leans Democrat and Democrats are more anti-nuclear than the average voter.

            It’s actually a very noticeable pattern. Left-learning groups and politicians will do everything to prevent proper reduction and storage of nuclear waste, and then complain about the (still safe and pathetically small amount of) nuclear waste. Hell, John Oliver just did a 20 minute bit on it a few weeks ago. He was complaining that all the commercial nuclear waste in the country could fit single-stacked on two football fields. That’s two football fields spaced with harmless, freight-train-proof, steel-and-concrete casks that represent the waste from powering the entire country for 8 years. It was 20 minutes of nothing-burger, and his demographic (‘pro-science’ leftists) ate it up. As though any other energy source wouldn’t produce 1000x as much uncontained pollution as nuclear does packaged, contained waste.

            What have Republicans done instead? A little bit here and there, but mostly absolutely nothing. And that’s better than actively sabotaging improvements and solutions. All they have to do is stay out of the way and they’re better than pretty much any Democrat. Because regardless of what any individual Democrat’s personal preference might be, they will score points with the very politically active environmentalist groups, and they won’t lose any points with their base, for being anti-any-fossil fuel or anti-nuclear. That’s just the realities of the politics at this point.

            Or put another way, Democrats want us to look more like Germany, while Republicans want us to look more like France.

            My general opinion is that Republican policies are going to do more to stop global warming inadvertently than Democratic policies are going to deliberately.

            If you want to show everyone how much you care about stopping global warming, vote Democrat. If you want to actually stop global warming, vote Republican. It’s cynical but that’s basically what 40 years of energy history says to me.

            Now, if I had to pick a Republican to fight global warming, I wouldn’t pick Trump. Actually if I had to pick a Republican for anything I wouldn’t pick Trump. But if it was a choice between him and Hillary, and global warming was the only issue that mattered, I probably would’ve voted Trump. Just for four fewer years of potential sabotage.

          • 1soru1 says:

            My disagreement is with democrats who are so wrapped up in their tribalism that they can’t be bothered to reach across the aisle to the people who do this.

            Ok, please give me advice on how to do so. Because you seem to be reacting to ‘look at the facts and make your own decision’ as an unacceptably tribalist statement.

          • cassander says:

            @1soru1 says:

            Ok, please give me advice on how to do so. Because you seem to be reacting to ‘look at the facts and make your own decision’ as an unacceptably tribalist statement.

            It’s not the method that comes off as tribal, it’s the condescension and apparent inability to think that well meaning people might disagree with your partisan choice.

            Null Hypothesis lays it out very well, probably better than I would have. there are reasons that people voted for trump (I didn’t, though I can’t say I was sad that hillary lost) beyond mendacity and moral failure. Acting as though that choice is beyond the pale is precisely why someone like him exists. I don’t vote for republicans because I like republicans, I don’t vote for them because I want gay/poor/black people to suffer. I vote for them because while the democrats have laudable goals, their methods for achieving them aren’t just bad, they’re actively harmful, effecting the opposite of their stated desires.

          • tscharf says:

            To be fair, Obama tried to get the left to go for nuclear early in his Presidency but was unsuccessful. Nuclear has always been a potential compromise point but this isn’t a subject that compromise is likely. Nuclear has problems, expense and perceived risk. These could be potentially managed but the left wants to make it as hard as possible so it is a non-starter for now. The industry does themselves no favors when they can’t seem to finish any plant under any circumstance.

          • cassander says:

            @tscharf

            interestingly the biggest gap on nuclear issues isn’t left vs. right, but male vs. female..

        • tscharf says:

          I think you need to check the official stance of almost every major environmental NGO in existence. It’s not even close. Probably 20:1 against nuclear unconditionally.

          • . says:

            Not a great metric – existence of NGO’s is a lagging indicator. Here’s a poll: http://www.gallup.com/poll/182180/support-nuclear-energy.aspx

            Republicans do like nuclear more than democrats. In fact democratic support for increasing the emphasis on nuclear is equal to republican support for increasing emphasis on coal, and saround half of republicans would like to see more nuclear. I was very surprised by this, nuclear power is serious Big Government. I continue to think that lefty support for nuclear power could turn on a dime if it was framed as a climate change thing and came from Bernie Sanders or equivalent, but this might be typical mind fallacy.

          • Null Hypothesis says:

            This gallup report: http://www.gallup.com/poll/190064/first-time-majority-oppose-nuclear-energy.aspx

            Gives similar information, but it tracks Democrat/Independent/Republican opinions on ‘favoring nuclear power’ from 2016 back to 2001. It provides an easily digestible plot (scroll to middle of page).

            The rough trend shown is that overall public opinion towards nuclear was on the rise and peaked two years before Fukushima, surprising enough, and now we’re roughly back to the same opinions as 2001. Republicans averaged about 60%, starting at 55% in favor, peaking at 76%, and dropping back to 53%. Independents average 50%, starting at 47%, up to 54%, and down to 46%. And Democrats averaged 40% favor-ability, starting at 34%, going up to 58%, and back down to 34%.

            Or to put it cleanly, Republicans tend to be in favor of nuclear power, while democrats tend to favor it less by 20 percentage points, typically with a majority disfavoring it. Independents tend to sit right in the middle, favoring it 10 percentage points more than Democrats and 10 less than Republicans, and remain fairly neutral on the topic.

            I would love for the left’s opinion of nuclear power to turn on a dime, but I don’t think it’s in the cards. John Oliver just went and did a hit piece on nuclear waste, and that alone is probably going to cement a few million Democrat’s opinions for the next 2 years.

          • tscharf says:

            We need to keep in mind exactly who killed nuclear power in the 1970’s, The environmentalists. No nukes. There was conflation of nuclear weapons with nuclear power as well as the scary word “radiation”. The China Syndrome. Chernobyl. I am convinced if this history did not exist and academia discovered nuclear power tomorrow that it would be hailed as the great savior for climate change. This prior bias seems to only be removable by the death of a generation.

          • bean says:

            This prior bias seems to only be removable by the death of a generation.

            My first thought on reading this was “Do we have to wait for them to die naturally, or can we accelerate the process with the aid of nuclear weapons?”

          • The Nybbler says:

            And now we have Fukushima. We are not going to get a bunch more nuclear power in the foreseeable future. Much additional in the way of dams is out both for environmental and “low-hanging fruit” reasons (in fact, we’re likely to lose hydro for environmental reasons). Renewable still can’t provide baseload, and any renewable which seems to be getting too good will be successfully opposed on environmental grounds. It’s fossil or freeze in the dark.

          • and any renewable which seems to be getting too good will be successfully opposed on environmental grounds.

            The paranoid interpretation of the pattern, which might be correct, is that the enthusiasts for doing something about global warming see it as a useful argument for doing lots of other things they want to do for other reasons. Anything that makes global warming look like less of a threat, whether other ways of slowing it or evidence that it has good effects as well as bad, undercuts the argument and so must be opposed.

            Some evidence for that view.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bean:

            My first thought on reading this was “Do we have to wait for them to die naturally, or can we accelerate the process with the aid of nuclear weapons?”

            This comment is unworthy of you.

          • engleberg says:

            NGOs matter, but they aren’t a major political party. The D party has spent the last half-century gunning for any big physical capital investment and holding it hostage until the owner is bankrupt. You either cowboy around cutting and running when the lawsuits, regulatory burdens, or tax hikes rise; or you don’t invest in physical capital in America. I like nuclear power, but I don’t want nuclear plants the size of a railroad car cutting and running around the country to avoid regulations.

          • tscharf says:

            One would hope team science could see past these very real problems and examine the total deaths per energy produced. Nuclear power has been proven to be the safest energy source by a pretty large margin. Planes crash and they are very dramatic events but they are still the safest form of travel. Nuclear is not problem free, it is just less problems than the others by many measures. I don’t think we are trying very hard to solve those problems because the nuclear stigma is very strong.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        So we all burn to death and drown (lobster-style?) 104 years from now instead of 100, for the low low cost of $7 Trillion per year of delay.

        If I’m reading this correctly, global GDP is ~$70T/yr. Pretty good ROI if you ask me.

        (Note: not saying the plan is good, I know not much about it. Pointing out that “low low cost of $7T/yr” is a rather silly counterargument)

        • Null Hypothesis says:

          It’s a pretty terrible ROI as a stand-alone. Those 4 years of slightly-warmer-temperatures aren’t going to inflict $7 Trillion of damage anually. So we’ll be spending a ton of money over time, starting now, to save less money in the future. Doubly inefficient. When put in comparison with other plans, it becomes demonstrably worse.

          $28 Trillion, using 50 year old reactor technology and accounting for no economy of scale, could purchase about 5,000 GW of nuclear energy production during that time period. Or roughly 10x the energy used in the United States right now.

          Put another way, we could make the US energy grid look like France or Sweden for a tenth of that cost. And instead of cutting US emissions by 20-30% over time, we’d drop them by 70%. More if we start using more electric cars. And there should be a lot of ways a hell of a lot more efficient than building 500 PWRs across the country. This is just a lower limit for the ROI of alternatives available.

          It’s a bad deal.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Those 4 years of slightly-warmer-temperatures aren’t going to inflict $7 Trillion of damage anually.

            So we all burn to death and drown (lobster-style?) 104 years from now instead of 100

            Sounds rather more expensive than $7T

          • Null Hypothesis says:

            It’s not a digital shift where global warming comes over the horizon and turns everything to lava. It’s incremental. To talk about ‘delaying’ the process by 4 years sits somewhere between pausing climate change at it’s current point for the next four years and then restarting, and waiting 100 years and then holding that climate for four years and then restarting.

            The consequences of global warming could constitute more than $28 Trillion over the next 100 years. But it’s not going to cost an extra $28 Trillion in just the 4 years after that.

            And I don’t even know why I’m bothering to articulate all this, because you know all this. Stop being pointlessly, stupidly glib. You’re smarter than this, and really bad at pretending otherwise.

          • . says:

            @NH: Did you see this? https://codexplainations.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/nuclear-vs-renewable-energy/

            My takeaway is (1) renewables really might shoot the moon but (2) better safe than sorry so we should be ramping up to build nuclear.

            This is all academic though, we should just do a carbon tax to internalize the externalities and let the market sort it out.

          • Null Hypothesis says:

            I think that ‘codexplanations’ whatever thing was fairly well done, with a decent format and representation to both sides.

            I would agree that the most fair way to do things would be to simply tax carbon (and other emissions as well, non CO2 emissions are bad too) and let the market sort it out.

            One contention would be that the political aspect – NIMBY activism – adds some extra cost and risk to nuclear power than a pure marketplace decision.

            But my bigger contention is that public opinion is against nuclear in the first place because a full accounting of projected costs for solar and wind isn’t given it’s due. Batteries are always imagined to be much closer and much more economical than they are. Economies of scale can magically make anything dirt cheep, etc etc. When compared with nuclear, the comparisons are rarely accurate or fair.

            But, if you could leave it largely to a market with approximately well-adjusted taxes representing carbon and pollution, nuclear would win out. (And if it wouldn’t, it shouldn’t.)

            However, my point in my original comment was that nuclear is better, provided that we need to do things now. And thus people saying this is a pressing issue and we’re out of time to solve the problem, but are adamantly against nuclear, are being intellectually dishonest and unscientific.

            My general belief is that technology is going to improve quickly enough that we shouldn’t be spending that much effort on fighting the problem now, versus 20 years from now. A carbon tax would help shift R&D and industries in the right direction, but I think that would do more to just push more manufacturing to Africa and Asia, where they produce energy with a greater CO2 footprint. So even a carbon-tax might be counter-productive. I think with a carbon tax, or even before one, the US should consider a tariff on imported goods that approximately accounts for the increased cost of local manufacturing due to environmental regulations.

            For something global like CO2 emissions, putting a tax here is just going to cause it to be produced elsewhere, and in greater overall quantities.

          • Controls Freak says:

            This is all academic though, we should just do a carbon tax to internalize the externalities and let the market sort it out.

            I would agree that the most fair way to do things would be to simply tax carbon (and other emissions as well, non CO2 emissions are bad too) and let the market sort it out.

            Are either of you concerned that we can’t compute this externality? Not just that we can’t compute the magnitude; we can’t even compute the sign of it.

          • Null Hypothesis says:

            Are either of you concerned that we can’t compute this externality?

            Significantly. That’s why I’m always suspicious of pretty much any government program designed to be for “The Social Good” because in most cases people can’t even figure out what the social good is, much less how to efficiently acomplish it or not do more harm in the process.

            I was raising just such a concern when pointing out that environmental regulations are only guaranteed to reduce environmental impact locally. It might globally increase pollution. Which would be a net negative for global things like CO2. So it’s as you say – one can’t even be certain of the sign of the impact for any given policy proposal. It’s a complex web of interactions, and people shouldn’t push forward a particular ‘solution’ with anything but humble caution.

  5. keranih says:

    One of the best parts about rationality as I’ve seen it has been the willingness of invested people to talk about possible policy answers in terms of pros and cons. I think it’s also one of the weaknesses – SSC commentators and rationalists seem to me to lean to the logic (rather than emotional) side rather heavily, to the point of not understanding emotional reactions to things.

    On the other hand, there is a tendency for some groups of people to reflexively use emotional responses even when the average “reasonable man” would not. Identity activists, esp on the left, get criticized heavily for this, but so do religious sort and agitprops of all stripes.

    In a recent example, ESPN changed out sportscast announcers because of concerns that people would react emotionally and negatively to the name of this sportscaster. My initial response was to think that ESPN’s PR response should have been along the lines of “If you’re so hysterical you can’t tell the difference between an ethnically Korean in sports today and a Virginian military leader who’s been dead for more than a century, you’ve got problems that we can’t help.”

    On reflection, 1) there’s a reason I’m not in PR 2) even if I was, that’s not charitable and 3) assuming that “emotional overreaction to things” is a state that some people are more likely to fall into than others, what responsibilities do rational people have in dealing with the irrational?

    Among the more satisfying answers I’ve seen have been “ignore them” and “punch them until they stop being irrational/awake enough to say stupid things” but I doubt that these will actually “work” in the sense of making people rational. Plus, I’m generally in favor of less punching.

    Thoughts?

    • Well... says:

      This is the second reference I’ve seen to the ESPN thing. Everything I know about it was in your reference. Why didn’t Robert Lee just start going by Bob Lee? Have them change his lower third, have people refer to him on-air as Bob, etc. From a PR perspective, removing the guy seems like a huge blunder.

      I’m also disgusted at how Robert E. Lee’s memory has been treated. He was one of the most admirable and inspiring Americans in history.

      • keranih says:

        Probably because his name is *Robert*, not ‘Bob’. Some people are particular about this.

        And in the south, Robert L. Lastname is pretty common. Before the rise of the ctrl-left, few people would have gotten any traction by claiming that being named ‘Robert Lee’ was a huge crime against humanity.

        • Well... says:

          Some people are particular about this.

          Agreed. But, people in broadcasting seem to be fairly not particular about this. (No, I don’t have any data to back that up.)

        • sconn says:

          Nobody ever suggested that being named Robert Lee was a crime against humanity. They just swapped the guy, with his permission, from broadcasting one thing to broadcasting another thing. They thought maybe they’d get less negative attention that way. Which is ironic given that now it’s getting a ton of negative attention as Proof the Country Has Gone Mad.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          When I first heard about this, I didn’t even make the Robert Lee = Robert E. Lee connection. Robert E. Lee is so consistently stylized with his middle initial that without it I assume it’s a different person.

          • Well... says:

            Yup, same here. First I heard “ESPN removes guy named Robert Lee.” Me: “I wonder what he did.” Later on: “It’s because his name was Robert Lee.” Me: “So? It’s not like he used the E.”

            (BTW, use of the middle initial seems to have been common among certain classes in the mid-19th century.)

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        He was one of the most admirable and inspiring Americans in history.

        Why? From what very little I know he seems to have acted typically for a person in his position. But then I admire the pre-Revolutionary Quakers the most.

        • Well... says:

          I just think he was a particularly impressive guy. His life story is kind of amazing to me. Accounts from men who served under/beside/and even opposed to him seem to be uniformly admiring and in some cases even awestruck.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Fair enough.

          • toastengineer says:

            I’ve been told by people who were actual historians that Lee was actually not a huge fan of slavery and freed any slaves his army ran across.

            He was very much a Erwin Rommel type figure, a very good man fighting for his people, even if the reason they were fighting didn’t align with his own principles.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @toastengineer

            To some extent – I’m not sure to what – the “Rommel as noble paladin in service of bad cause” thing is a major exaggeration. He was not an anti-Nazi, and appears to have been rather devoted to Hitler. He never fought on the Eastern Front, so we have no idea how he would have dealt with things like the Commissar Order, death squads operating in rear areas, etc.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @toastengineer, I’ve been told by actual historians that when Lee invaded Pennsylvania, slavecatchers came in his wake – with his knowledge – kidnapping black people to sell down south.

            What’s more, it seems to me that if your claim were true, Lee would’ve quickly run up against his government – he was fighting in Virginia, a place where his army would run across a whole lot of slaves on plantations belonging to rich and influential people.

          • Well... says:

            The biography I read of Lee, by Michael Korda, stressed reluctance at being too rosy about Lee’s views on slavery. It seems that Lee may have personally found slavery distasteful, and he was genuine in his belief that God would ultimately decide whether America would practice slavery, but he wasn’t any kind of Oscar Schindler to the many slaves he inherited from his father-in-law’s estate.

          • John Schilling says:

            IIRC, Lee didn’t inherit his father-in-law’s slaves, he was appointed executor of his father-in-law’s estate with instructions to free the slaves in five years. This he faithfully did. Custis (the father-in-law) deserves most of the credit and/or blame for this; Lee does not appear to have been unusually cruel or unusually kind in carrying out Custis’s instructions; mostly he seems to have wanted to be done with the whole business and back in military service where there weren’t any slaves to deal with.

            If we’re tearing down monuments of generals for having owned slaves, that points to George Washington and Ulysses Grant – though both of those did ultimately choose to free their slaves.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            This he faithfully did.

            The will instructed him to free the slaves as soon as practicably possible, no later than 5 years.

            Lee appears to have interpreted that as 5 years, full stop.

          • John Schilling says:

            It also required him to pay off the debts of the estate, which probably couldn’t be done in less than five years (or longer, though by then the point was largely moot).

          • Well... says:

            That’s right, I was misremembering. He was executor of the estate, and was to free the slaves in five years. The slaves thought they would all be free as soon as Custis died, and they were used to being treated extremely leniently, which was probably part of the reason the estate itself was in such disrepair–the slaves weren’t actually doing much work. Lee had to explain to them that they were not free yet and that they needed to start doing work, and that probably didn’t go over well. He no doubt had to punish slaves for various infractions, and he probably did that according to the customs in place in situations like that, which today look pretty bad (stripping slaves to the waist and whipping them in front of the others and so forth).

            I believe the statement that Lee wished the whole ordeal could be absolved so he could go back to his day job is probably true/accurate.

        • mtraven says:

          It’s complete horseshit, of course, propaganda spread by 150 years of slavery apologists.

          To describe this man as an American hero requires ignoring the immense suffering for which he was personally responsible, both on and off the battlefield. It requires ignoring his participation in the industry of human bondage, his betrayal of his country in defense of that institution, the battlefields scattered with the lifeless bodies of men who followed his orders and those they killed, his hostility toward the rights of the freedmen and his indifference to his own students waging a campaign of terror against the newly emancipated. It requires reducing the sum of human virtue to a sense of decorum and the ability to convey gravitas in a gray uniform.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            That entire article reads like a one-side screed sourced by other one-sided screeds. It sounds more like “horseshit, of course” than the claim it purports to dismantle.

          • Urstoff says:

            It reminds me of Rommel apologists. Sure he fought for a regime engaged in genocide and aggressive destruction of other states, but he did so while feeling bad about it! Both Rommel and Lee were generals for regimes who not only were the aggressors in conflicts, but had as reasons for their aggression deeply immoral practices. You can’t come out of that looking rosy, no matter how much you adhered to “rules of war”.

          • mtraven says:

            Yes it is one-sided. In the matter of slavery, like Nazism, people generally have to pick a side. Which side are you on?

            Of course Lee, being a human being, was not a one-sided monster. Maybe he loved children and was kind to animals. That doesn’t really matter; we are talking about how to interpret his political and military role. There’s the Lost Cause narrative that has been flogged by generations of slavery apologists, and then there is the alternative narrative preferred by the enemies of the Confederacy; that is to say, people who oppose slavery. Apparently the war is still going on and thus one must pick a side; neutrality is not an option.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            In the matter of slavery, like Nazism, people generally have to pick a side. Which side are you on?

            The side that doesn’t advocate initiation of violence, but that also doesn’t misrepresent the other side and then make implied threats about which side I should choose. (Hint: there’s more than two sides here.)

          • mtraven says:

            What “implied threats”? Am I going to reach through the internet and throttle you? It’s not me but history who judges people who think they can remain neutral during great moral struggles. At a certain point, if you aren’t willing to fight evil you are complicit with evil.

            We may be approaching such a moment — fascism is most certainly one of those kinds of defining evils, and we seem to be slipping rapidly towards it (I know this is contrary to the position of this blog, which seems to be that everything is fine and people should just be nice to each other).

    • Sam Reuben says:

      That’s an excellent question, and I think the best answer is to work to convince people:

      1. Only about things that you can convince them of;
      2. With respect paid to their emotional states;
      3. Weighted towards general principles; and
      4. If it can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

      1 requires some work to get good at, and definitely prejudices you towards talking to people you know well. 2 seems silly, but is essential. Emotions are, generally speaking, intellectual shorthand for more complicated judgments, and a serious judgment doesn’t tend to come from nowhere. Rather than dismissing emotional states, it’s better to figure out where they come from and translate them into more explicit statements. 3 is standard practice for the community, I should hope, and 4 is both obvious and very much worth reminding oneself about.

      An example would be: my mother, a very intelligent person, was (understandably) outraged about Trump’s reaction over Charlottesville, and was seriously worried about white nationalism in America. I acknowledged her anger and fear as both being worthwhile, and then walked through the points about Trump and about the white nationalists (e.g. Trump’s a narcissistic moron who isn’t capable of holding even a repugnant moral principle like neo-Nazism, this was a country-wide white nationalist march that got a few hundred people in contrast to the Women’s March) to show that the worst fears weren’t a serious threat. Then, I talked about a general principle of “widening the scope” from the neo-Nazis to conservatives in general, and how it amplified hate and radicalization among Middle-Eastern Muslims after 9/11 and how the same could happen here. She acknowledged the argument, and agreed with the conclusion: that the white nationalist principles held there were awful and should be fought against, and that Trump is a despicable and weak leader, but that there was no need to panic about there being some massive representation of them in America.

      I think this is a reasonable model to use. It isn’t a magic bullet, and it takes work, but things worth having tend to be just that. Does it all make sense?

    • Evan Þ says:

      I’m very sympathetic to your point of view.

      On the other hand, when you’re someone like ESPN who’s trying to appeal to the masses, irrational reactions like that matter among the marginal viewer. For an example from politics – where candidates also have to appeal to the marginal voter – look how Robert Heinlein narrowly lost the 1938 Democratic primary to an opponent who was a registered Republican. Commentators point out that Sudeten Nazi politician Konrad Henlein had been making headlines shortly before the race.

      • …which is similar to the reason most buildings don’t have a 13th floor; even if the builder is completely free of superstition, they’re worried that potential tenants will possibly be superstitious about that, or if THEY’RE not, they’ll be worried about their customers, clients, vendors, or employees being so… so if there’s even a hypothetical person somewhere down the line who won’t want to go to the 13th floor because they think it’s bad luck, they’ll play it safe by skipping the number.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          I think that’s clearly the case here – no one seems to be saying “having Robert Lee in town would really offend me”, they’re all worried about some hypothetical third party feeling that way.

          From ESPN’s perspective, a whole bunch of stories saying “isn’t this Robert Lee thing a crazy coincidence, I wonder if some easily confused people are going to be offended/triggered?” is still more trouble than it’s worth.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I generally don’t use the jungian typologies but find their calling their T and F functions both rational is useful in this sort of analysis.

      Extreme Ts find it rational to avoid various symbolic landmines. No surprise those of other types would as well.

      • keranih says:

        This works fine so long as all of us agree on what symbols equal landmines, and which are just rocks that are part of the landscape, and have been so for decades.

    • Loquat says:

      I read somewhere that ESPN and/or Robert Lee himself (source was unclear which exactly) was concerned that he might become the target of internet memes, presumably from the deplorable section of the internet, if they went ahead and had him do the Virginia game. I’m not sure how much a memer could really do with such weak tea as that, but it was supposedly part of their reasoning.

      • Iain says:

        Yeah. It’s worth pointing out that the whole thing started out as an internal personnel move, with ESPN offering to swap Robert Lee to a different game and Lee accepting the offer. We’re only hearing about it because somebody leaked it to Outkick the Coverage, and a bunch of loud voices on the internet saw an opportunity to get their kicks in.

    • gemmaem says:

      I think reason vs. emotion is a false dichotomy, and I think recognising it as such can help with this. There are certain specific emotions that routinely interfere with the process of trying to believe true things about the world, such as fear of being wrong. There are also places where lack of emotion routinely interferes with the process of trying to believe true things about the world, such as when you don’t care enough about an issue to look past your first judgement.

      This is particularly true when you’re trying to understand someone that you disagree with. Understanding how someone thinks and understanding how someone feels are not separate processes.

      Most of the time, if you want someone to listen to you, a good first step is to listen to them. Believe them when they tell you what matters to them, make responses that address their particular concerns, stay on topic when sharing your views rather than pivoting to your favourite semi-related hobbyhorses. People like to be engaged with as people.

  6. 1soru1 says:

    As an answer to the question ‘is Trump racist’, “You Are Still Crying Wolf” is unimpeachable.

    There are, however, other questions that could have been asked. Ones like ‘does Trump bring any level of moral seriousness and credibility to opposing white nationalism?’.

    Cal in Nazism, fascism, white nationalism, white identity politics, or whatever, there has, post-WWII, been a bipartisan concensus that there was something there that needed opposing. Now that’s a 1.5-partisan consensus, because Trump clearly does not hold that position. If only becuase that is a political view, and Trump doesn’t really have political views in the conventional sense.

    How that will play out remains to be seen. The judiciary are still opposed, but Trump has the power of pardon and a demonstrated will to use it. Numbers of supporters may not be large, and smaller than counter-protestors. But the media/internet footprint inherently required to bring out those larger numbers is immense. Which risks a backlash, if only in the form of posts like this saying ‘the threat is small, why bother?’.

    A lot of things are only impossible because people act to prevent them happening.

    • Zorgon says:

      See, I’d strongly disagree that there has been a consensus that Nazis/white supremacists/etc “needed opposing” in the last 30 years. The consensus seemed much more that they were a vanishingly small irrelevance that could be safely ignored. They were a line item on The Daily Show and little more.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      “I see a dangerous animal on the outskirts of town. It has fur, and is on four legs. He appears to have sharp teeth. It’s a wolf.”

      “If you will notice we are in Australia and there are no wolves here. You, sir, are crying wolf.”

      “Well then, I guess it was a dingo that just carried off your child. I tried to warn you.”

      Scott does not understand how populism works.

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        “Well then, I guess it was a dingo that just carried off your child. I tried to warn you.”

        I think if they led with “look over there, that animal has your child!” instead of lots of weirdly specific details followed by insistence that it’s a wolf, they might have gotten better results.

        Maybe I’m missing the point?

        Scott has always agreed that Trump is dangerous; he’d just prefer that people focus on the ways in which Trump is actually dangerous, as opposed to this weird theory that he’s a closet Klansman.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Scott spends a whole lot of time detailing the minute ways in which Trump is not a wolf.

        He also spends a lot of time trying to make the case that Trump does not resemble a wolf at all. This is where he goes horribly wrong.

        He thinks Trump saying things like “I’m the least racist person you know.” and “Look at this rainbow flag I’m holding.” mean that Trump is 180 degrees from bigoted. But this has never been the case.

        Scott would easily recognize the form of argument if the statement made was “I’m more in favor of free speach than anyone you know.” But because the values represented by “free speach” and “pluralism” are in tension with each other, he fails to recognize what Trump does.

        As to “An animal has your child” the warning was meant to prevent it from occurring, as it had not happened yet.

        And, given that dingos are descended from domesticated dogs, if you just said wild animal we could have quibbles about whether they actually counted as wild. This is the problem with failing to taboo the word “racist” when considering the argument. Scott fell victim to the definition problem.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          My critique of Scott is he is an American living in the US, and unlike folks from other places (South America, Eastern Europe, etc.) has not developed a nose for these things.

          I recognized Trump’s smell immediately when he ran, as a USSR ex-pat.

          The recognition was “olfactory,” not definitional.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t think that is it. Plenty of people in the US recognized what Trump was doing.

            Scott is non-neurotypical. He doesn’t process the emotional appeals intuitively.

          • ghi says:

            I recognized Trump’s smell immediately when he ran, as a USSR ex-pat.

            As a fellow soviet ex-pat I call B.S. Frankly the thing that smells the most totalitarian are the people acting like Red Guards, namely the alt-left.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            You call BS on what I smelled in June?

          • gph says:

            I think he’s calling BS on your entire premise that ex-USSR residents have some special power to ‘smell out’ people like Trump, whatever that means.

            And I agree with him. You’re giving us a meaningless anecdote and claiming some form of group knowledge that no-one outside Eastern Europe has. And if ghi is a USSR ex-pat then I’d say he has every right to call B.S. on everything you said.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Americans never had to deal with real totalitarianism on home soil, or folks with those leanings, like our good mutual friend Donald.

            Eastern Europe people have, South American folks have (because of folks like Chavez). So they recognize it, right away.

            Jokes like “just cancel elections, and give it to Trump.” It’s not jokes, it’s probing for what is possible.

            Asking folks for personal loyalty.

            Demagoguery.

            All this stuff is very familiar.

            My prediction is, since Americans are getting some first-hand experience now, they will be a lot more leery of this stuff much earlier.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Trump smells to me as totalitarian as Berlusconi, in other words, nothing like the totalitarianism in the vein of USSR or other totalitarian movements after WW1. Maybe one could make comparison to the post-Soviet political corruption.

          • @Ilya:

            The comparison to Burlusconi also occurred to me. Do you regard him as totalitarian?

          • ghi says:

            Americans never had to deal with real totalitarianism on home soil, or folks with those leanings, like our good mutual friend Donald.

            Eastern Europe people have,

            Yes, let’s see what they think of Trump. It would appear that they overwhelmingly support him and have elected similar right-wing populists as heads on their own governments.

            South American folks have (because of folks like Chavez).

            I find it interesting that the people now comparing Trump to Chavez tend to be the same people who were until recently singing Chavez’s praises to high havens.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I find it interesting that the people now comparing Trump to Chavez tend to be the same people who were until recently singing Chavez’s praises to high havens.

            “I’ll take outgroup homogeneity bias for $200 Alex”

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I never liked Chavez.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            David: I want to make a distinction between a totalitarian system of government (which clearly neither Italy nor the US are at the moment) and people who have totalitarian leanings.

            People like Berlucosi, Chavez, Putin, and Trump have totalitarian leanings. In a society with healthy institutions, like the US, they are resisted. In a society with weak and unhealthy institutions, like Venezuela or Russia, they gradually, or not so gradually, take over.

            These people, even if they don’t accomplish a full takeover, are corrosive anyways. They can burn commons and so on, for short term gain (for example cooperating norms). Witness Trump just blithely suggest the Republicans defect on all iterated games” because the Democrats will do it anyways” (regardless if true or not).

            I said this before, and I will say it again, the most dangerous thing about the hard core Trump supporters isn’t that they have bad taste in champions, or even their poor epistemic hygiene (ask_thedonald reddit is great reading for that), but that they are willing to burn everything, every shred of mutual cooperation that’s been carefully built up over time, to win.

          • cassander says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            I said this before, and I will say it again, the most dangerous thing about the hard core Trump supporters isn’t that they have bad taste in champions, or even their poor epistemic hygiene (ask_thedonald reddit is great reading for that), but that they are willing to burn everything, every shred of mutual cooperation that’s been carefully built up over time, to win.

            Funny, I know a lot of them who thought exactly the same thing about Hillary and Obama. I don’t say this as a gotcha or tu quoque, but to raise a more interesting question. Let’s assume that you don’t want to burn everything down, but think you’re fighting people who do. What is the proper response?

          • . says:

            @Cassander: Definitely a hard problem, but here is one thought: keep away from the meta-level.

            When you are worried that your opponents might be willing to destroy society, it can be tempting to get all meta. Instead of talking about e.g. redistribution or health policy, one might talk about corrupion, or the rule of law, or other things that everyone values. This seems like a good idea, since broadly shared values like these are a good foundation on which to appeal to sane people on the other side.

            But this also raises the stakes. Rather than trying to show that one’s opponents are incorrect, the argument becomes: who is more corrupt, who defected first, who is the greater danger to peace and the rule of law. It is likely to backfire, and I think it is currently backfiring for everyone who is attempting it.

            So the answer to leftists threatening to undermine democracy by ‘importing’ foreign voters is to ask the object-level questions: what exactly are the costs and benefits of immigration and to whom do they accrue? The answer to rightists threatening to increase police impunity is to ask the object-level questions: to what extent will this result in less crime, rather than more?

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Ilya

            I don’t think we have serious disagreements about the concrete issues, but I think the word “authoritarian” would be more descriptive instead of “totalitarian”. To me, totalitarianism implies grand plans, and not just any plans, but totalizing, comprehensive transformation of the whole society, vision that mandates certain rigorous norms to all aspects of each individual life. (Opposed to the free society in the sense of Popper and alike.)

            The motivation of authoritarianism is often simpler: seeking and maintaining (and providing ideological rationalization of) personal governmental power by any means necessary. More like the imperial rule of Napoleon or even better, Napoleon III, than the great dictators of WW2.

          • Ilya Shpitser says: